Teams, however strong or weak may be, would like to start their campaign in the Ranji Trophy on a winning note. It will be no different when host Odisha take on last year’s runners-up Tamil Nadu in their four-day Group-B league match here at DRIEMS ground on Friday. But aiming for a win and accomplishing it will depend on pre-season preparation, team composition, game-plan for each match and performance on the middle. As far as preparation is concerned, Odisha has been slugging it out for the past six months, under the guidance of home-grown coach Debasis Mohanty.
“Thanks to the newly constructed Sachin Tendulkar Indoor Hall in Barabati Stadium, Cuttack, the boys also had the opportunity to work out during the rainy season,’’ says team manager Suresh Kumar. When it comes to team composition, Tamil Nadu are a formidable force with as many as five senior international in their rank. The opening pair of Murali Vijay and Abhinav Mukund is set to join the team on Thursday night after putting up modest performance for India A in their three-day match against England at Mumbai. The middle-order will be marshaled by rock-solid Subramaniam Badrinath. Wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik’s explosive batting can tear any bowling attack to shreds.
They also have a young all-rounder in Baba Aparajith, who played a key role in India winning the Junior World Cup. In the bowling department, Balaji’s swing and pace, coupled with offie Ravichandran Ashwin’s turn and guile may become too hot to handle for the home team.
“We are a balanced side with right mixture of youth and experience. We want to play good cricket and start the season on winning note,’’ admitted Balaji. Odisha too have a competent side, featuring experienced campaigners Natraj Behera, Paresh Patel, Biplab Samantaray, Govind Poddar, Haladhar Das, Basant Mohanty, Rakesh Mohanty and young blood Abhilash Mallick, Sandip Mulia, Alok Mangaraj and Anil Buda. Skipper Natraj Behera has proved himself a competent leader after leading East Zone to their second Duleep Trophy triumph earlier this month.
However, going by the past record, Tamil Nadu will be favourite to win the season opener. In four past meetings in Ranji Trophy, they have beaten Odisha twice and drawn the other two after taking first innings lead. But Balaji and his boys would like to to regain the trophy they won only once in 1987-88.
On the other hand, Odisha would be hungry to register their first outright win in Ranji Trophy after a gap of four years.