A cracker of a contest is on the cards when last year’s finalists Dindigul Dragons and Madurai Panthers take on each other in the fourth Tamil Nadu Twenty20 Premier League here on Monday.
Interestingly, both teams are running high on confidence having begun their campaigns of the fresh season on a smart note at the NPR College ground, Natham. While Dindigul Dragons upstaged Chepauk Super Gillies by 10 runs, the defending champion Madurai was ruthless, demolishing former champion Tuti Patriots by nine wickets on Saturday.
There is not much to separate the teams. Both teams are led by inspirational captains – Ravichandran Ashwin and KB Arun Karthick. It was evident in how they marshalled their resources in their opening matches, while upstaging their respective rivals.
Karthick may not have the international experience like Ashwin, who is also a solid all-rounder, but he makes that up with top-class batsmanship. Already the 33-year-old opener is the highest run-getter in the league (930 runs) and also holds the record for the most number of fifties (11) in the league’s history.
Having defeated Dindigul by seven wickets in Season 3 final and begun this season on a winning note, Karthick says his camp is bubbling with confidence. “Since last year’s win, we have been in a good space. To start the tournament with a win feels good,” he said.
The Madurai captain admits it will be special to be playing the 100th match of a tournament that has helped many a player gain national recognition since its inception four years ago. “I’m definitely very excited to play the 100th game because TNPL is one platform which has given life for lot of cricketers. It has been a stepping stone for many cricketers to go up the ladder and to play for the country, IPL or even Ranji Trophy. It is a great platform and it is a great opportunity for me. I am very happy to be playing the 100th game as well,” he said.
Karthick, however, feels Dindigul poses a stiff challenge as it has some quality players in its ranks. “Dindigul has always been a very good side in TNPL. Not just bowling, they have a good batting line up. They have Ashwin, Jagadeesan …. It is a good challenge,” he said.
Incidentally, Dindigul holds a 4-1 advantage over Madurai in five meetings so far with its only defeat coming in the summit clash last year. Dindigul all-rounder Varun Totadri admits it has to be on its toes against Madurai, which is in the midst of a good run. “We just want to bowl really well from the start with no loose balls. Madurai Panthers batted really well last game so we have to keep it tight from the start,” he said.
23-year-old Totadri is hoping to carry on from where it left in the previous match. “We’re looking at the positives from the last game. We are looking to stick to our strengths because we’re a very good side and we have a good leader in Ravi Ashwin. So, more than focusing on them, we are looking to focus on doing a good job when it comes to our plans,” he said.