Confident Tamil Nadu ready for Andhra Challenge in Ranji opener

Tamil Nadu might not quite have the home advantage this time around since the BCCI has ensured neutral curators would prepare pitches at each venue this season.

Ravichandran Ashwin (left) during a practice session in Chennai on Thursday.   -  Aadhi

Past hurts while future beckons. Old soldier Lakshmipathy Balaji walked out of the practice area sporting a typically affable smile. Inside his head, a lot of Ranji memories must have been swirling around.

Breaching defences, blood and sweat, heady conquests, agonising defeats … this scalp-hunter has been through it all.  

No cricketer of his generation has toiled harder than Balaji for Tamil Nadu. The paceman was used like a spinner and bowled close to 30 overs a day simply because he – lacking pace support - represented the best chance for his team to pick wickets.

Balaji put his international career on the line, stretched his body to the limit, but never complained. But then, his dream of being a part of a Ranji Trophy winning side remained unfulfilled.

Now, as the bowling coach, he will be a key factor in Tamil Nadu’s campaign to regain Ranji Trophy after 29 years. Will it do so? Time will tell.

The host will be the favourite as it takes on Andhra in its season-opening Ranji clash at the M.A. Chidambaram here fromFriday.

The side will be wary of the weather though; rain has been forecast over the next four days.

READ: Mukund bullish of a good Ranji season for Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu might not quite have the home advantage this time around since the BCCI has ensured neutral curators would prepare pitches at each venue this season.

The surface for the match is unlikely to be a rank turner. There will be some assistance for the pacemen early on. Gradually, the track might encourage spinners. There should be a measure of bounce for the bowlers all through.

Much of the Tamil Nadu side picks itself. R. Ashwin, Washington Sundar and Rahil Shah should complete the spin attack. L. Vignesh and new face V. Lakshman would fight it out for the second paceman’s slot.  

Andhra will be no pushover. Skipper Hanuma Vihari has been among runs, while S. Barath, Ricky Bhui and the experienced Y. Venugopala Rao add weight to the batting line-up. Left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt can be more than handy.

This Andhra line-up could be put under considerable stress by Ashwin & Co. Tamil Nadu will seek full points from the tie.   

Teams

Tamil Nadu (from): Abhinav Mukund (captain), B. Indrajith (vice-captain), M. Vijay, M. Kaushik Gandhi, N. Jagadeesan (wk), B. Aparajith, M.S. Washington Sundar, R. Ashwin, Rahil Shah, K. Vignesh, L. Vignesh, R. Sai Kishore, V. Lakshman, R. Rohith (wk), Malolan Rangarajan.

Andhra Pradesh (from): Hanuma Vihari (captain), K.S. Barath (vice-captain), D.B. Prashanth Kumar, Ricky Bhui, Y. Venugopala Rao, B. Sumanth, M. Pranith, D.B. Ravi Teja, Ashwin Hebbar, Bhargav Bhatt,  P. Vijay Kumar, B. Ayyappa, K.V. Sasikanth, I. Karthik Raman, Y. Pruthuvi Raj, Shoaib Mohammed Khan, L.M.S. Girinath.

Match starts at 9.30 a.m.