CHENNAI: 2016-17 season: Ranji Trophy semifinalists, winners of Vijay Hazare Trophy, group stage exit from Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s. 2017-18 season: Group stage exit from Ranji Trophy, Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s. If asked to pick a domestic side that blows hot and cold, you better don’t look beyond Tamil Nadu. It all happens in a loop.
They name a new coach, perform well one season and raise hopes of a better next season. “We are dreaming of winning the Ranji Trophy” starts doing the rounds. Then, it all comes crashing down. Promise shown the previous season ends up haunting the team, for reasons hard to understand. Exactly seven months back, Tamil Nadu coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar was wondering on such lines after a disastrous Vijay Hazare campaign, where they even lost to Goa. And he is still searching for those answers.
His first season with the team was a good one. The old problem of playing as a bunch of individuals rather than as a team was not to be seen. Last season, it was the same old story, as the search for personal glory overtook collective goals. “We don’t want to bury the last season under the carpet. It is important to respect what happened and take lessons from it and not repeat those mistakes,” Kanitkar told Express on Saturday, after practice at MA Chidambaram Stadium.
Rarely do Tamil Nadu coaches survive this kind of a second season. But thanks to the confidence and trust shown by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association which has backed the coach instead of looking for a new man, Kanitkar is hoping to turn the tables this time. “First season it went really well. We played as a team and what the team did was there for everybody to see. What happened in the second season was unexpected. But it helped a great deal in learning, for the team as well as for myself as a coach. Good things that set the team apart in the first season went missing. It’s easy to get carried away after a good season. The important thing is to build on it. When a formula is working, you have to stick to it. Last season, some of the individuals were putting themselves ahead of the team and we couldn’t capitalise on moments which we should have,” Kanitkar said.
On Saturday, Kanitkar’s message to the team was to play as one and forget the individual rewards. Players from the state get regularly picked for India and India A sides, but this could also act as a distraction. “After the good season, Abhinav Mukund, Vijay Shankar and Washington Sundar received India call-ups. Even the likes of T Natarajan got good IPL contracts.
And when you look forward to that, in a way you tend to deviate from the hard work that you’ve been doing. You start concentrating on something else.” This, says the coach, needs to be addressed. “Bottom line is, they all became prominent because the team did well. I can’t fault them for aspiring to play for India, but they should remember when selectors look for players, they look at sides that win tournaments. It’s no use if you score 1,000 runs and the team gets knocked out,” Kanitkar added.