Revival of Buchi Babu cricket and the winds of change
Tamil Nadu Premier T20 League that not only grew into a feeder for Indian Premier League teams, but also turned the state into a dominant force in white-ball cricket.
CHENNAI: The Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) revived the Buchi Babu tournament this year in a four-day format, signaling its intent to focus on regaining the elusive Ranji Trophy, the last of its two triumphs coming way back in 1987-88.
The Buchi Babu tourney, historically TN’s curtain-raiser for the domestic season, was shelved half-a-dozen years ago to make room for the popular Tamil Nadu Premier T20 League that not only grew into a feeder for Indian Premier League teams, but also turned the state into a dominant force in white-ball cricket.
The Ranji Trophy, however, remains a coveted and elusive crown for the state which finished runners-up on six occasions since its last success – second in 91-92 to Delhi, in 95-96 to Karnataka, in 2002-03 & 2003-04 to Mumbai, in 2011-12 to Rajasthan and in 2014-15 to Karnataka.
Its impressive talent pool was never in question, but the teams failed to pull collectively when it mattered the most in the premier national competition.
The TNCA rang in a few notable changes ahead of the new Ranji Trophy season starting in January, which included the appointment of Sulakshan Kulkarni as head coach after previously returning its prestigious first division league to the meaningful three-day format.
Kulkarni was a tenacious wicket-keeper and batter during his time, who won the Ranji Trophy both as a cricketer and a coach for Mumbai. Although, this isn’t the first time the TNCA has appointed an outstation coach.
Not long ago, former India and Maharashtra cricketer Hrishikesh Kanitkar guided the team for a three-year period that ended with limited success in 2019.
It’s amply clear that the TNCA management is doing its best to plug the gaps and shore up the senior team’s Ranji Trophy fortunes, especially after the side heartbreakingly failed to go beyond the group stages last season.
With a distinct lack of fast bowling depth its Achilles heel, as Kulkarni pointed out during one of his early media interactions, the TNCA has roped in Madhya Pradesh fast bowler Kuldeep Sen, who made his India debut in December last year, to bolster the pace attack along with Sandeep Warrier, who shifted his allegiance from Kerala last year, among a string of homegrown talents.
More importantly, Kulkarni has spoken of a much-required change in the dressing room mindset, pointing out that for a state which has produced a bunch of international cricketers almost simultaneously, Tamil Nadu has fallen surprisingly short in red-ball cricket, and called on the team to develop a “burning desire” to win the coveted title.
The revival of the Buchi Babu tournament possibly signals the winds of change blowing through Tamil Nadu cricket. The value of winning the Ranji Trophy is what Kulkarni is looking to inculcate. And could well mark a new beginning.