When the fixtures list was drawn up for the 84th Ranji season, Tamil Nadu would have smacked its lips at the easy meat that lay dangling before it. A match against rank outsider Andhra followed by minnow Tripura, both at home, meant TN could have realistically aimed at two wins on the trot.
However, the much-vaunted Tamil Nadu outfit, boasting of three international players, could salvage only a point in a face-saving drawn match against Andhra. It isn’t going to get any easier for the host in the absence of B Aparajith, who scored a valiant unbeaten hundred in the second innings coupled with a fifty in the first, as he has been drafted into India ‘A’ squad against New Zealand ‘A’. Batting all-rounder J Kousik has been called up as a replacement for Aparajith, while K Dinesh Karthick is in the 16-member squad.
The latter’s availability will hinge on his arrival in time for the match on Saturday. TN will count on the services of the experienced duo of Murali Vijay and R Ashwin to deliver its first win this season. The weather, though, doesn’t look promising with grey, overcast skies and a bit of rain in the air.
After managing only a point in its last outing, TN would hope that the rain gods will not gatecrash its party. “We are not approaching this game thinking of an outright win. We will take it one session at a time. We were let down by our batting failure in our first innings against Andhra. That was a major talking point in our team meeting and we felt that batsmen had to put up a big score for bowlers to defend it,” said Abhinav.
Questioned on his team’s inability to bowl out Andhra for a cheap score in the first innings, the captain said he would not rush into making any hasty changes on the basis of only one match.
“I have a really experienced bowling attack and I have full faith in them. We had Andhra on the mat at 80 for five, before B Sumanth played a gritty knock. We dropped a catch as well, but I’m not worried about my bowling,” affirmed the 27-year-old. Tripura might not have any well-known players, but Abhinav was in no mood to dismiss it off lightly.
“Any team that plays in Ranji Trophy should be taken seriously. There is a lot of funding going into the smaller state associations and they have access to most of the facilities that we have. Tipura has good players in Yashpal Singh, Smit Patel and Rana Datta,” remarked Abhinav.