Tamil Nadu needs to handle crunch situations better

With two titles in the shorter formats, TN goes into the 2017-18 season with high expectations of reclaiming the title it last won three decades ago.

B. Anirudh, who played for Hyderabad last season, will turn out for Tamil Nadu this time. His arrival is expected to give the TN batting a big fillip.   -  V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

After losing the final in 2014-15, Tamil Nadu had one of its most forgettable outings the following year. Drastic measures were needed, and the TNCA (Tamil Nadu Cricket Association) appointed Hrishikesh Kanitkar as the head coach ahead of the 2016-17 season with a strong support staff and infused young blood in the team.

But in the first match, on a seaming track in Lahli, TN succumbed to a two-wicket defeat to domestic giant Mumbai in a match that did not last even three days. In the next match, against Railways, the TN batting once again collapsed in the first innings. Kanitkar then took matters into his own hands and had a ‘quiet but firm talk’ with the players. In the second innings, skipper Abhinav Mukund and experienced Dinesh Karthik slammed centuries that set up TN’s 174-run victory.

From thereon, things changed for TN, which did not even concede first innings lead until the semifinals.

Playing at neutral venues, for the first time in recent memory TN had a strong pace attack, with Aswin Crist, K. Vignesh and left-armer T. Natarajan leading the bowling charts.

Youngsters like Kaushik Gandhi, B. Indrajith and N. Jagadeesan stepped up to the task and TN’s batting did not depend on one person.

With two titles in the shorter formats, TN goes into the 2017-18 season with high expectations of reclaiming the title it last won three decades ago.

Personnel-wise, TN has most of its bases covered except for the absence of Crist, who is recovering from an injury. The team has also boosted its batting with the arrival of B. Anirudh from Hyderabad. However, the concern for TN — as it has been for the last three decades — is in handling crunch situations, especially in the knock-outs, and not letting any advantage slip.

Last year, in the semis against Mumbai, TN collapsed from 178 for two to 305 in the first innings. Then, it let Mumbai, which was 192 for five, off the hook, allowing the team to score 411 that sealed TN’s fate. The team now hopes to get rid of such bad habits.

S. Sharath (chairman of selectors): “I think they are closing in on a big win. We have shown last year we can win big tournaments in the shorter formats. Now is the time to replicate that in the four-day format too. They should believe that they can win crucial matches, like the semifinal or the final. It needs only a slight mental adjustment and I am sure the win is near.”

Last season: Lost to Mumbai in the semifinals.

Titles: 2