It’s a nightmarish scenario for the Tamil Nadu pace attack ahead of its opening Ranji Trophy game of the season - against Madhya Pradesh at Dindigul beginning November 1 - with four frontline pacemen on the injured list.
Bowling coach L. Balaji, however, chose to look at the brighter side.
“It’s an opportunity for the others. Of course we will not have the same firepower. But the pacemen need to bowl with control and build pressure to play a supporting role to our more experienced spin attack,” Balaji said.
The string of injuries to the Tamil Nadu pace attack this season has been bizarre. While Aswin Crist has been grappling with a dodgy back for quite some time now, K. Vignesh, looking sharp and having impressed in the Duleep Trophy this season, pulled his hamstring during the Vijay Hazare tournament.
Then left-arm paceman T. Natarajan, sending down his yorkers with verve again, fractured his finger while fielding off his own bowling in the same competition.
Worse was to follow. V. Yo. Mahesh, who apart from bowling usefully, notched up two Ranji hundreds down the order for Tamil Nadu last season, damaged his knee while ‘landing’ in his action and is out for the entire season.
Balaji said, “When Vignesh, Crist and Natarajan were together, we reached the semifinals of the Ranji Trophy two seasons back. Our pace attack was really buzzing. Then last season, Yo Mahesh lent balance to the side with his all-round ability.”
Asked about their possible return to the squad, Balaji said, “Vignesh could be fit for the second game. Natarajan might be back for the third match. And we have to see how Crist’s back holds when he starts bowling again.”
Balaji had good things to say about the new face in the squad, Abhishek Tanwar. “He is an efficient bowler with control who does things with the ball. He is not quick but does the job.”
At this point, it does seem M. Mohammad, Tanwar and pace-bowling all-rounder J. Kousik could form the pace pack against Madhya Pradesh in case Vijay Shankar is drafted into the India A side. If Vijay Shankar stays with the State team, Kousik could miss out.
Among others in the mix, the lanky V. Lakshmanan briefly played for the side last season but has been asked by the team-management to focus on line and length. And Sharun Kumar, who featured in the Vijay Hazare tournament, has been told by the umpires to 'work' on his action.
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