CHENNAI:Siechem Madurai Panthers have a new team owner, support staff and players for the third edition of Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL).A more experienced set-up was put in place. The left-arm spin of Rahil Shah was sought to bolster their bowling, while the brute force of X Thalaivan Sargunam and SP Nathan were drafted to enhance their batting arsenal. Their fortunes started looking relatively bright on paper.
That apart, former Karnataka coach J Arunkumar — under whom the state won its domestic treble in 2014 — and New Zealand women’s A coach K Sriram were ushered into their backroom.“We wanted to cover a lot of bases. Experience was one such aspect. We have got most of what we wanted in the draft,” assistant coach Sriram had remarked on Thursday, a day before their TNPL ball was set rolling.All of this makes a lot of sense, considering that they’re the team that is yet to win one match.But, there’s one thing has remained the same for Madurai: KB Arun Karthik and his firefighting skills.
Karthik was the leading run-scorer for Madurai last season, notching up 250 runs in six matches at an impressive strike-rate of 182.4. His inaugural season was an uneventful one in comparison, but he was still the second best for Madurai after Shijith Chandran (208 runs in seven matches), accumulating 143 runs in six matches.This season, Karthik’s shoulders may perhaps be feeling a more relaxed, as captaincy was passed on to D Rohit. And in Madurai’s first match against Dindigul Dragons at ICL Grounds, their perennial saviour kept things simple: see ball, hit ball.
A strong bottom-hand player, Karthik hit six fours and two sixes and shared two fifty-plus partnership en route his 44-ball 61.There were only two blemishes in his knock. The first happened when he was batting on 59, carving a catch behind point, where it was dropped. The second was when he got out, courtesy Dindigul skipper Ravichandran Ashwin in the 16th over.
Even Subramaniam Badrinath waxed eloquent about how Karthik middled pretty much everything, praising a boundary of his by saying that “KB’s shot to mid-wicket was clear as his approach to the game today.”
Karthik may not be counted among the league’s talk-of-the-town players like Washington Sundar, but he might very well be the top choice for those invested in Madurai’s fate. After all, his knock was his team’s biggest silver lining in their nine-wicket trouncing on Thursday.
Brief scores: Madurai 169/6 in 20 ovs (Karthik 61, Shijit 35; Ashwin 3/25) lost to Dindigul 170/1 in 15.2 ovs (Jagadeesan 68 n.o, Vivek 70 n.o).