CHENNAI: The stakes for Tamil Nadu couldn’t have been any higher before they set foot in Indore come Friday. A win against Madhya Pradesh will be the only outcome that Abhinav Mukund and Co will be focussing on during their fifth Group C Ranji Trophy encounter, necessitated by a precarious fourth position — with eight points — in their pool.
If being backed into a do-or-die situation — they lost three crucial points against Odisha in their last fixture after conceding a first-innings lead. To keep their qualification hope alive, Tamil Nadu also have to contend with a few other hurdles.
The first among them is not having the services of Murali Vijay, R Ashwin, and Dinesh Karthik. While the latter has been rendered out of action due to a hip strain, the other two are currently a part of the Indian Test contingent that is facing off with Sri Lanka.
To compound their problems further, their one-point outing against Odisha exposed another issue: lack of penetrative bowling. The heroics of the former’s lower middle-order and a completely benign pitch notwithstanding, despite all the sweat shed by Tamil Nadu’s ball-wielders on the final day, the hosts clawed their way from 286/4 to 533/9, occupying the crease for nearly seven sessions.
In the absence of speedsters Aswin Crist and Thangarasu Natarajan, the likes of V Lakshman and L Vignesh have found it difficult to step up (the latter, along with back-up stumper R Rohith and tweaker Rahil Shah have been dropped for this clash).
That Tamil Nadu’s lowest average and strike-rate at the moment read 28.80 and 50.5 tells quite the story. Throw into the mix a lackadaisical outing in the field — Day 3 and 4 of the Odisha clash was witness to four reprieves — and Tamil Nadu do have quite the task at hand against Madhya Pradesh.
“Though teams do tend to make errors, there’s no excuse for the ones we’ve committed. But we’ve learnt from them and are moving forward. The boys are currently focussed on what is in front of us,” observed Tamil Nadu bowling coach L Balaji on the eve of the fixture.
“We’re not taking this clash lightly. Madhya Pradesh have been a strong side in the Central Zone, and have also been in the limelight for quite a while. At the same time, the who of the opposition doesn’t matter to us, as we consider only ourselves when it comes to becoming a better side. The team is good to go, and we’re looking forward to doing well.”