Ranji Trophy: Lacklustre TN runs into an in-form Himachal

The gulf between the two teams in the Elite Group 'B' points table is considerable. Himachal with 16 points from five matches and Tamil Nadu is languishing in the seventh place.

Tamil Nadu, this year, has been let down by its misfiring batting in the Ranji Trophy.   -  K. Pichumani

Looking to infuse fresh life into its lacklustre Ranji Trophy campaign so far, Tamil Nadu runs into an in-form Himachal side in the cold climes of Dharamsala on Saturday.

The gulf between the two teams in the Elite Group 'B' points table is considerable. Himachal, with back-to-back innings victories, lies third, with 16 points from five matches. Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, is all but out of the race for the knockouts, languishing in the seventh place, having played a game more.

The top five teams from Groups A and B combined will progress to the next stage.

The home team profited from collective performances to turn its campaign around after having gathered two points from its first three matches. Left-arm spinner Mayank Dagar, with 19 wickets in the competition, has been especially instrumental. The top order has been solid; captain Prashant Chopra, Ankit Kalsi and Rishi Dhawan have been among the runs.

In contrast, Tamil Nadu has been let down by its misfiring batting. It suffered calamitous collapses in the first innings against Punjab, and in the second innings against Bengal, thereby providing its opponents the decisive upper hand in those contests.

Much will be expected from captain Baba Indrajith, who has three fifties and a century in six matches. A key figure in the plans will also be fast bowler T. Natarajan, who turned in a match-winning effort against Kerala. He will be expected to make use of the fresh track unspoiled by the watery sun, early on.

Left-arm spinner Rahil Shah, who has 17 wickets from four matches, could be handy later on, as the contest progresses.

The playing conditions will be an unknown quantity for both teams, as this will be the first Ranji Trophy match here this season.

The weather, too, will test the teams. Temperature is likely to remain in single digits (celcius), for the most part of the day.

Squads

Himachal: Amit Kumar, Prashant Chopra (c), Raghav Dhawan, Ankush Bains, Nikhil Gangta, Ankit Kalsi, Rishi Dhawan, Mayank Dagar, Pankaj Jaswal, Gurwinder Singh, Arpit Guleria, Ekant Sen, Priyanshu Khanduri, Rahul Sharma and Akash Vashisht.

Tamil Nadu: B. Indrajith, K. Dinesh Karthik, Abhinav Mukund, Vijay Shankar, M. Kaushik Gandhi, B. Aparajith, N. Jagadeesan, M. Mohammed, J. Kousik, M. Shahrukh Khan, S. Abhishek Tanwar, Rahil S. Shah, R. Sai Kishore, K. Vignesh, T. Natarajan.