Appearances can be deceptive. Lakshmipathy Balaji has a disarming smile but is a hard task master.

In his second season as the State team bowling coach, Balaji believes the Tamil Nadu attack will move to the next level.

“There is a fair bit of ability in the attack,” he said in a chat with Sportstar here on Friday.

An immediate area of concern for Balaji is the back injury to the side’s pace spearhead Aswin Crist that rules him out of several games in the upcoming Ranji season.

Balaji said “The others will have to step up” and then dwelt on the importance of paceman K. Vignesh. “He bowled extremely well last season. The good thing about Vignesh is that he bowls a fuller length around the off-stump and make the batsmen get on to the front foot. He then finds the edges.”

The former India paceman added, “This is the right length in India where there is not that much bounce off the pitch for the pacemen. He has also a quick arm action with no pause. The batsmen sometimes struggle to pick him.”

Paceman T. Natarajan too figures in Balaji’s plans. “He’s a left-armer so that makes him different. He’s got a bit of pace about him, has a good yorker. We have been working to get him to swing the ball back into the right hander on a consistent basis that will make him a bigger threat. And if (he) develops a good short ball, his fuller length balls will become more effective.”

Balaji said, “The batsmen know what to expect from him in his second season. So Natarajan has to evolve.”

With the home and away format returning, the side might also seek balance by picking a pace bowling all-rounder to accommodate an extra spinner on dry wickets. Balaji said, “Vijay Shankar should fit into the role of a support paceman. J. Kousik too is shaping better this season.”

Then there are other probables such as R. Rohit – “he bowls an uppish length that is full enough to come to the front foot but not full enough for the drive” – and the lanky V. Lakshmanan about whom Balaji has heard a lot of good things.

And Balaji is confident that the spinners will deliver. “Rahil Shah and Malolan were outstanding for us in the season before last while both Washington Sundar and Sai Kishore can both restrict runs and take wickets.”

His only regret – “Wish we had some wrist spinners who could have attacked the batsmen, got the breakthroughs.”