Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2019-20: An audition for the IPL, and next year's World Cup

Time for the domestic T20s, time to bring out the unorthodox shots - like this Shahrukh Khan uppercut NurPhoto/Getty Images

What's the relevance of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy when you have the IPL? Days before the start of the 20-over domestic tournament, Sachin Tendulkar suggested it should be scrapped. While the timing of the tournament last season - it was held after the IPL auction - meant there was very little at stake for the players, this season it precedes the auction and also offers another chance for T20 World Cup hopefuls to catch the attention of the selectors. Here's everything you need to know about the tournament.

When does it start?
The tournament kicks off on November 8 and the Super League knockout phase will begin on November 21. The final will be played on December 1, 18 days before the IPL auction in Kolkata.

Where is it being played?
Across six cities: Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam, Thiruvananthapuram, Surat, Mumbai and Chandigarh.

Tell me about the format...
There are five groups. Teams in each group will play each other in their group in a round-robin format. Following this, the top-two sides from each group will progress to the Super League phase for the knockouts.

Up for grabs: IPL contracts?
A day before the 2017 IPL auction, Jharkhand batsman Ishank Jaggi cracked a 30-ball 56 and consequently elbowed his way into the auction, getting a gig with Kolkata Knight Riders. The likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya were also plucked out of this tournament by scouts and went on to become not only IPL heroes but also international stars.

Mumbai Indians' scout John Wright and Royal Challengers Bangalore's Malolan Rangarajan were present at various venues during the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy and will continue to hunt for talents in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s.

Up for grabs: India caps?
With the T20 World Cup in Australia just about a year from now, India are keen to expand their talent pool and make their bench "as strong as possible". Shubman Gill and Suryakumar Yadav, captains of Punjab and Mumbai respectively, will aim to make their cases for T20I selection, having done well in the 50-over Deodhar Trophy. Yadav, in particular, showed off his finishing skills in the Deodhar with his unbeaten 72 off 29 balls - a knock filled with a variety of unorthodox strokes.

Dinesh Karthik, the Tamil Nadu captain, is also eyeing the finisher's role and believes that he is well-equipped to step into MS Dhoni's shoes. Having teed off for Tamil Nadu in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, can he follow it with a prolific T20 stint and give the selectors some pleasant headaches?

Batsman Shreyas Iyer and pacer Shardul Thakur will also be in action, for Mumbai, with the India selectors keeping an eye on them.

Who are the India stars in action?
All India regulars will miss the start of this domestic tournament and will instead be in action against Bangladesh in the ongoing T20I series. Fast bowler Navdeep Saini, who made his T20I debut in the Caribbean earlier this year, is recovering from injury and isn't part of Delhi's squad.

Allrounder Washington Sundar and batsman Manish Pandey are likely to link up with the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka sides respectively after the T20Is against Bangladesh. However, Mayank Agarwal will be unavailable, as he will be preparing for the Test series against Bangladesh.

Hanuma Vihari, who is part of Delhi Capitals, will lead Andhra, while R Ashwin will turn out for Tamil Nadu before joining the India Test team.

This could also be the first high-profile cricket Test opener and Mumbai batsman Prithvi Shaw plays after his doping ban ends on November 15.

And unknown domestic players to watch out for...
Former Under-19 World Cup winner and Bengal seamer Ishan Porel bagged ten wickets in the Hazare Trophy, including a 6 for 34, at an impressive economy rate of 4.68. Porel was also at it in the Deodhar Trophy that followed, and even pulled off WWE wrestler John Cena's you-can't-see-me celebration. If Porel extends his rich form into the Mushtaq Ali Trophy, we could well see him in the IPL.

Given the scarcity of Indian left-arm seamers, Gujarat's Roosh Kalaria, who is capable of nipping the new ball around, might be on the radar of IPL scouts. To demonstrate the dearth of left-handers in Indian domestic cricket: Andhra left-arm seamer Prithvi Raj had been snapped up by Knight Riders in the last auction when he had played just one T20.

Seventeen-year-old Mumbai opener Yashasvi Jaiswal, who went on a big-hitting spree during his one-day double-hundred against Jharkhand, would get a step closer to an IPL contract if he fires in the shortest format too.

Then, there's the Tamil Nadu pair of Shahrukh Khan and G Periyaswamy. Shahrukh was the state's finisher along with Karthik in the Hazare Trophy and powered them into the final with a timely 56 not out against Gujarat.

Meanwhile, Periyaswamy has been fast-tracked into the Tamil Nadu side after bowling Chepauk Super Gillies to the TNPL title earlier this year. He has vision in only one eye, but still is a decent outfielder and can bowl yorkers from a round-arm action.

Who do you reckon start as the favourites?
The usual suspects: defending champions Karnataka, Mumbai and Tamil Nadu. Karnataka won't have Agarwal and Pandey for a part or even the entire tournament, but they have the promising teenager Devdutt Padikkal and two legspinners - Shreyas Gopal and Praveen Dubey - in the mix. Rohan Kadam, who was the top scorer in the 2018-19 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, will have to do it all over again in order to earn an IPL deal.

Notably, Karnataka are currently sitting pretty on a 14 match-winning streak in T20s, level with Otago and Knight Riders. Only Sialkot Stallions (25) have more consecutive T20 victories than Karnataka.