: At the practice session on the eve of the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 (South Zone) tournament here on Saturday, it is evident that the T20 season is imminent.

Batsmen casually walk across the stumps to play the paddle. Each team has a designated boundary-rider to protect passers-by from almighty heaves which rockets forward from the nets.

This six-day tournament primarily serves three purposes — to ease into T20 mode before the IPL starts on April 3, to catch the eye of IPL franchisees to secure last-minute berths; to finish the domestic season on a high by winning the final title on offer.

Former India and Karnataka spinner Sunil Joshi, now coach of Hyderabad, gives a ‘thumbs-up’ to the timing of these games. “Keeping this event for the end of the season makes sense because it helps the players to get into some form before the IPL.”

Kerala will be without the services of fast bowler S. Sreesanth, who is out with an injured right wrist. However, the pacer is expected to be available for the IPL.

For Tamil Nadu, these matches hold added significance. With a barren domestic run drawing to a close, this is an opportunity to collect some rare silverware.

Host Karnataka — on a high after the recent Subbaiah Pillai triumph — will be hit by the absence of the free-flowing Robin Uthappa. Despite that, the team boasts of capable hitters like Manish Pandey and Stuart Binny, who will no doubt be keen to don their IPL jerseys with big scores under their belts.

Sunday’s matches : Kerala vs Hyderabad; Goa vs Karnataka; Andhra Pradesh vs Tamil Nadu. — Sports Reporter

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