Another season and another quest for Tamil Nadu. At stake is the elusive Ranji Trophy.

Cricket in the times of Covid can be a hard business, and, after a year’s break, the premier domestic competition is back. And Tamil Nadu, the most successful white ball team this season, gets another crack at a prestigious red ball tournament it last won in 1988. Vijay Shankar and his men will begin their campaign against a versatile Delhi outfit at the  Barsapara ground on Thursday.

There is grass on the black soil pitch, and, given the nippy weather in these parts, the ball should seam and swing, particularly on day one.

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Fielding first and making serious inroads with the ball represents the best chance for both sides. Day two should be better for batting.

Tamil Nadu is likely to open with Kaushik Gandhi and L. Suryaprakash. They should be followed by B. Aparajith, B. Indrajith, Vijay Shankar, Shahrukh Khan and wicket-keeper batter N. Jagadeesan in a promising line-up of grafters and stroke-makers.

The young and exciting Sai Sudarsan may have to wait longer for an opportunity. Sandeep Warrier, Saravana Kumar, both take the ball away from the right-hander, and M. Mohammed, who reverses the sphere, are likely to form the pace attack with the last two hard-hitting lower-order batters as well.

Much improved left-armer R. Sai Kishore would be the lone spinner in the eleven, with Aparajith chipping in with his off-spin.

Delhi will be without senior paceman Ishant Sharma, available only from the second match, and the pacey Navdeep Saini, grappling with fitness issues. Delhi still has a useful seam attack in skipper Pradeep Sangwan, Kuldip Yadav and Simarjit Singh.

Nitish Rana, Himmat Singh and Dhruv Shorey add weight to Delhi’s batting. Also on view would be the under-19 star Yash Dhull. Delhi might lack the big names of the past but has combative cricketers such as off-spinning all-rounder Lalit Yadav.

Traditionally, Tamil Nadu-Delhi Ranji clashes have been fiercely contested with plenty of drama. The upcoming face-off should be no different.