DINDIGUL: IT’S been four days since Tamil Nadu lost their Ranji Trophy Elite Group B opener against Karnataka in a last-over thriller. But Vijay Shankar & Co seem to have put that defeat aside and are keen to open their account as they face Himachal Pradesh in the second round, beginning on Tuesday at NPR College ground in Dindigul. But the challenge this time will be different. After fielding a full-strength team, Tamil Nadu will be without the services of key batsmen Dinesh Karthik and Murali Vijay due to injuries.
Karthik played a crucial role in the opening game, scoring a century in the middle which helped the team cut down on the first-innings deficit. Apart from them, all-rounder Washington Sundar, who was expected to join the squad after his commitments with the national team, will also miss the next two games due to finger injury. Given that the likes of N Jagadeesan are yet to find their touch the onus will be on Abhinav Mukund, Baba Aparajith and the skipper Vijay on the batting front. “I see this as an opportunity. When senior players are not available, the responsibility will be a lot more. Most of the time they will be available and you might not get the opportunity to play long,” said Vijay on Tuesday. “Everyone knows what they have to do. Players didn’t reach this level without any hard work. It is not a new thing for us. It is about getting the best out of ourselves by doing the right things.”
Though Tamil Nadu did not put any point on the board, they missed out on the first-innings lead by only 29 runs and came close to settling for a draw on the final day. However, the decision to field four spinners and under-utilising the leg-spinner M Ashwin raised a few eyebrows. The approach even backfired to some extent. Even though they will be playing on the same ground, the same strategy looks unlikely to change against Himachal. The team might not have the luxury to afford an extra bowler in place of a batsman in the middle-order, which now looks thin. Vijay hinted at playing seam-bowling all-rounder J Koushik —Washington’s replacement — in this scenario. That apart, the team will also be wary of the weather. Longer spells of rain are expected on the first day. “The wicket was a bit damp today. We will have a fair idea (about the combination) only tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. Last time, there was a green top on the eve of the match but on the game day, we noticed that the grass was cut. Hence we went with four spinners,” Vijay added. Himachal are also coming off a defeat against Saurashtra. Their batting failed miserably with the team posting 120 and 182. Pacers, though, were on song picking up all 15 wickets that fell for Himachal.