NATHAM: Underachievers Tamil Nadu are all set to come face to face with giant-killers Jammu & Kashmir in their second Group A Ranji Trophy match at NPR College ground in Natham, Dindigul, from Sunday.
Tamil Nadu are coming into the match on the back of a heavy defeat against defending champions Karnataka in their first match. The mood surrounding the camp is understandably not very high. Despite the loss, coach WV Raman insists there were positives from the game.
“We were slightly ahead in the opening sessions but ultimately, inexperience cost us. Stretching the champions to six sessions was commendable and shows we’re ready to take on any side. J&K are a good side but we want to focus on ourselves rather than worrying about the opposition,” he said.
A long nets session on Saturday saw all bowlers except L Balaji in action. Local lad M Mohammed bowled with pace and aggression for almost an hour. It will be Balaji’s 100th first-class match and he will be felicitated before the start.
Captain R Prasanna said they are trying hard to get basics right and flush the loss out of the system. “We’re trying to move on and not look back. The team is working hard to iron out flaws. We’ll take the match session by session.” Exactly opposite is the mood in the Jammu & Kashmir camp. The energy is infectious and the camaraderie among the players is there for all to see. Whether it was playing football or during fielding drills, everyone was upbeat.
Coached by former India left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi, last year’s quarterfinalists have come a long way since floods ravaged their state, rendering facilities unusable. Winning against 40-time champions Mumbai was the high point in a difficult few months for the group.
Led by all-rounder Parvez Rasool, J&K have a few impressive youngsters. Shubham Khajuria, the 19-year old opening batsman, is coming into this match on the back of a century against Mumbai. Pacer Ram Dayal returned figures of eight for 127 from that game. Incidentally, Khajuria’s performance has drawn praise from Raman. “We’ve a talented bunch. There is no better joy than seeing youngsters grabbing their chance,” said Rasool.
“We had a close look at the pitch. It’s a new track and hopefully we can adjust to the conditions early so that we can play to our potential against a good side,” said Joshi. Located 29kms from Dindigul town, the stadium is hosting its first Ranji match. Still under construction, the plot is surrounded by hills on all sides, making it a picturesque setting for the four-day encounter.