Two triumphs in 78 years does no credit for the natural talent that Tamil Nadu possesses and the organized infrastructure available to the players and as a new Ranji Trophy campaign gets underway on Friday the question is whether the team can rise to the occasion and go one step further than they did last year when they went down to Rajasthan in the title clash at Chepauk.
As one who has closely followed the fortunes of the team in the national competition over the last half a century one has been baffled by Tamil Nadu’s failure to inscribe their names on the trophy more than twice. Like Hyderabad which has also won the Ranji Trophy on just two occasions over the same period the overall performance just does not match up to potential and compares unfavourably with their southern neighbours Karnataka which has won the trophy six times.
There is unanimous agreement that the infrastructure and the facilities provided to the players is first rate. Camps are conducted at various levels, the coaching is systematic, tournaments are organized and the cricketers cannot complain about money or job opportunities. But somehow the returns have not been in keeping with the investments.
Are then the players to be blamed for not rising to the occasion in spite of an amiable scenario? To a large extent this is true for they have failed to deliver when it matters most. If they have the talent they lack the technique in a few cases but more to the point they have lacked the temperament. And while in recent years there has been improvement in this aspect – reflected by the larger representation by players from the state in the national squad – there is still much to be done.
For long Tamil Nadu had this mental block against Mumbai and Delhi. Before Tamil Nadu registered their first victory over Mumbai at Tirunelveli in 1995-96 the record against the oft-crowned Ranji Trophy champions read: Played 13, lost 13. Against Delhi it was played 6, lost 6 before Tamil Nadu notched up their maiden victory. All that thankfully is in the past but again when it has mattered most they have come a cropper — going down to Mumbai in two successive finals in the early years of the new millennium being a case in point. Tamil Nadu have also lost Ranji finals to Delhi and Karnataka in the 90s but more than all this last year’s defeat at the hands of Rajasthan must have really hurt for the hosts seemed to have everything going for them.
TN had won the cup for the first time in 1954-55 and through the next three decades and more flattered only to deceive. Over the last quarter of a century since the second triumph the record has been decidedly better. But being five times runners-up in that period — thrice at home — only drives home the point that they are finding the final hurdle too stiff. Tamil Nadu have almost always been one of the serious contenders for the trophy even in a highly competitive field but will they actually make it a third triumph this season? One look at the squad and they seem to have the right blend of youth and experience. Now it is up to the players to deliver.