CHENNAI: Ranji Trophy: eliminated in group stage. Vijay Hazare Trophy: knocked out in semifinals. Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy: ousted in group stage.
After all the promise and hope raised by the runner-up finish in Ranji Trophy the previous season, 2015-16 was Tamil Nadu’s chance to attain consistency. Instead, it came off field, as like a few years ago, they consistently failed in crunch situations. Going in with a revamped support staff, they were undone by luck as well, as must-win matches kept getting washed out. The sum of it all proved last season was an exception, not the norm.
Tamil Nadu has enough talent. R Ashwin and Murali Vijay occupy key slots in the Test team. Abhinav Mukund and Dinesh Karthik have played at the top level. Baba Aparajith and Vijay Shankar have been part of India A. But for reasons best known to management, the team has not been able to reap benefits of good players.
It’s true that weather upset their plans in home matches against Gujarat and Andhra, before a turning track backfired in the must-win last match against Punjab. But there were elements that could have been managed better. With few youngsters coming up, players looked assured of places and the lack of competition was evident in the performance of batsmen as none tallied 400 or figured in the top 50!
“We’re not blessed with a big pool of players. When a player isn’t performing, you’re made to wait until he finds form. Or if we feel he has become complacent, we drop him for a match and see if he has received the message. There’s no questioning the technical aspects of most of them as that’s there in abundance. But somehow, may be it has more to do with the mental side that we don’t perform up to need in clutch games. It’s becoming a trend, which is bad,” lamented M Sanjay, Tamil Nadu coach who is unlikely to continue.
The appointment of RI Palani as cricket administrator after Raman decided not to continue, didn’t help their cause either. Instead of having a coach who could have given better direction to careers of some of the youngsters, the TNCA went for one of their own man by making joint-secretary the cricket administrator. Sanjay, Raman’s assistant for two years, was promoted to bring in continuity. But after a full season, many players revealed to Express they had no idea who the head was.
Maybe it was an error on part of TNCA to constitute a support staff comprising an administrator and a coach, without clarifying what exactly their roles were. Players were not sure who the boss was. The morale was so low that TNCA president N Srinivasan met players before the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy for a pep talk. The association has a reputation of giving importance to player’s views while appointing the support staff. This time, even when players thought of tasking matters up with the TNCA, they hesitated because an association official was with the team as support staff.
“It’s unfair to blame the support staff because in the end it comes down to how players fare. There are concerns, we’re not happy with the season. The president spoke to players before the T20 tournament and is planning to meet them again. Before we do anything, we’ll seek a review from players,” said KS Viswanathan, secretary of TNCA.
looking back: crunch failures, bad luck and a gujarat jinx
Ranji Trophy: Started well but failed in key games. Two washouts including one against Gujarat kept them from crossing group stage.Vijay Hazare One-dayers: Reaching the semifinals wasn’t bad, but the batting collapsed against Gujarat’s Axar Patel chasing 249.Mushtaq Ali T20s: The going wasn’t bad. They crashed out on net run rate after finishing tied second on points in the group with Gujarat.