CHENNAI: “Batting was a letdown. We didn’t perform to our potential. We scored centuries but failed to strike partnerships at crucial moments. It was also important to bat out the first session of the first day. We had to be brave enough to bat first and not lose wickets. We failed to win key moments. We need to understand that team goals are more important than personal milestones.”
On Friday, when Tamil Nadu’s Ranji Trophy campaign finally meandered to its painful demise with a draw against Delhi at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Baba Indrajith pretty much touched upon all things that went wrong for his team over the last two months.
Yes, there were injuries to key pacers. Crucial players also flitted in and out of the team due to national commitments. Weather also played spoilsport in a couple of games. But on Friday, Tamil Nadu were stuck as one of the bottom-dwellers of Elite Group B; nearly a repetition of what went down for them last time around after having promised so much with their inspiring run in 2016-17.
Tamil Nadu’s chief selector S Sharath hit the nail on the head as to what has really been tripping up the team over the last two years. “Experience counts as experience only when you’ve actually learnt from them. If you keep repeating the mistakes that you’ve made in the past, you’re bound to fail. As a senior or a junior, if something has worked for you, you can’t keep doing them over and over and expect the same results. You can’t get complacent.”
One thing that Sharath is referring to is a particular tendency that Tamil Nadu have picked up over the last two seasons: not exerting pressure in their first outing with the bat.
Sample this. The three matches that saw Tamil Nadu miss the knockout bus were a loss each against Himachal Pradesh (away) and Bengal, and a first-innings-lead concession against Punjab (away). In all three matches, Tamil Nadu batted first. In two of them, they had their India stars in their line-ups. But only the Bengal clash at home saw a century in their first innings, which too was not enough. In a format that has forced teams to attempt chasing 300-plus targets at more than six runs per over, such inadequacies were bound to dent their qualification chances.
“That’s one factor behind our result. Taking initiative in the first innings is the first step to tilt matches in a team’s favour,” explained Sharath. “But that didn’t happen, and the batsmen need to step up as a group and claim responsibility. A lot of hard work needs to be done before next season.”