CUTTACK: Sunday turned out to be the day of the underdogs at the DRIEMS ground. In stark contrast to what had transpired over the last three days at the venue, Odisha clawed their way past Tamil Nadu’s first-innings total of 530/8 in a thrilling post-tea session of their Group C Ranji Trophy encounter to take three points, denting the latter’s hopes of qualification in the process.
As Odisha’s feisty lower middle-order of the hosts went about patiently, building towards their final push for a first-innings lead, they also slowly unravelled yet again a few problems that have been bogging Tamil Nadu — currently placed fourth in the group with eight points — down during this season’s campaign.
These issues now obviously assume more importance, with Tamil Nadu now heading into two must-win away clashes against Madhya Pradesh and Baroda over the next fortnight. One among them has been the absence of speedster duo Thangarasu Natarajan and Aswin Crist due to injuries. Along with Krishnamoorthy Vignesh, the pace troika had been instrumental in propelling Tamil Nadu to the semifinals last time around.
Coupled with the absence of R Ashwin — who is currently in India’s squad for their Test series against Sri Lanka — the two-time Ranji champions are every now and then finding it difficult to create inroads into the batting line-ups of their oppositions.
For instance, the current speedster unit of Tamil Nadu — Vignesh, L Vignesh, Vijay Yomahesh and Vijay Shankar — has scalped 25 wickets in Tamil Nadu’s four outings. But they tend to deliver a dismissal for nearly every ten overs (59.8), with each of them bearing a run trade-off of 30.52. Tamil Nadu’s spin contingent too has shown similar signs of misfiring. Their corresponding statistics read: 28 wickets at an average and strike-rate of 41.89 and 83.61.
The 22-yard strip for their encounter against Odisha offered absolutely no help to bowlers. Tamil Nadu’s ball-wielders toiled through nearly seven sessions against Odisha, but couldn’t send their last man back to the hut, even after 187.1 overs.
If this wasn’t headache enough for Tamil Nadu during what can only be termed as a crunch phase, they also suffered in terms of fielding during this clash. Day 3 saw Odisha benefit from three reprieves, and Day 4 added another one to that tally.
TN coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar, though, reposed faith in his team, backing them to overcome these problems in their next two matches. “I don’t think there is anything right now that needs harsh words. They have given everything. We will say that Odisha played better. Definitely, there are things that need to be worked on and improved.
And we need to bowl better, especially in terms of becoming more consistent.
“You can say we missed them (Natarajan and Crist). But they have been out from the beginning. So we shouldn’t be counting on them to begin with. They don’t come into the picture. The next two matches are crucial, and we will go all out in them.”
Group A: At Bengaluru: Karnataka 649 & 235/3 (KL Rahul 92) drew with Delhi 301 (G Gambhir 144; A Mithun 5/70). Points: Karnataka 3, Delhi 1.
Group C: At Agartala: Andhra 402 & 234/4 dec (K Bharat 50; R Dutta 3/43) drew with Tripura 315 & 272/5 (U Bose 53, S Patel 107 n.o). Points: Andhra 3, Tripura 1.
At Cuttack: Tamil Nadu 530/8 dec drew with Odisha 533/9 (S Mishra 71, B Samantray 50, R Dhuper 97; Y Mahesh 3/60). Points: Odisha 3, Tamil Nadu 1.