Baba Indrajith has made a habit of racking up runs season after season. In the last edition of the Ranji Trophy, he amassed 396 runs in four innings, with an average of 99.00, and then followed it up with an impressive 125-ball 118 in the Duleep Trophy final against the West Zone.
But until Thursday, he could not score a century in the ongoing Ranji Trophy. The seasoned campaigner came up with a classy 103 off 159 balls against Mumbai at the Brabourne Stadium on Thursday, when it mattered the most.
After being dominated by Mumbai for the first two days, Tamil Nadu rode on its captain’s ton and Pradosh Ranjan Paul’s unbeaten 107 to bounce back in the game. While Indrajith was happy to end the day on a positive note, he agreed that it was not easy to turn things around.
Resuming the day, trailing by 275 runs, Tamil Nadu lost two wickets for 100. When Indrajith walked out to bat, his job was to hang in there and forge a long partnership with B Sai Sudharsan, who already looked settled. Taking lessons from the first innings debacle, where the team folded up for 144, Indrajith stitched a 50-run stand with Sudharsan.
“It is very difficult to plan anything when you have a lead of about 300-odd runs. Personally, somehow when I walked out today, I thought, ‘okay, I will bat for two days…’ that was my plan. I just wanted to bat for two days and somehow get the team through,” Indrajith said.
Though he played an incredible innings, he fell shortly after reaching the century, holing out to Sarfaraz Khan at covers. “I was not able to carry forward after my hundred, but as a whole, there was no pressure. I feel we have given a good fight. We finished the day well and lost just three wickets, so that’s a positive for us. Going forward, if we can bat till lunch, it would be great,” Indrajith said.
With a day still left, Indrajith knows that Mumbai will push for an outright win, but as a team, Tamil Nadu hopes to get things under control. “Tomorrow morning is a fresh day, I am pretty sure Mumbai will come at us hard. They bowled really well but after the last session, the ball got old and the fast bowlers also got a bit tired. So, it is understandable. If we can bat till lunch, depending on where we are, we can take a call…” he said, when asked whether his team will be aiming for an outright win if an opportunity comes.
“At this point in time, any batter who comes in, we need a partnership. We cannot afford a time where we lose a couple of early wickets. We are not in that kind of situation to lose early wickets…”
After a successful stint in the Duleep Trophy, Indrajith would have ideally liked to start Ranji Trophy campaign with a big score, but barring a 71 against Delhi, he failed to make an impact in the first three games. “I was a bit disappointed. When I look back, I got a couple of 40s and a 70 of which, when I logically thought over it, the 70 could have been converted. Among the other two, one was a bad decision and the other we were declaring. It was slightly in mind that I hadn’t got a three-figure score after the first three games, but I kept things simple,” he said.
“My mantra has always been that whenever you get set, try and make it big. Lately, I have not been able to capitalise. A hundred is a hundred, but I still want to make it bigger…” he said.
So far in the tournament, Tamil Nadu has failed to bag an outright win, but quite a few players have proved their mettle, Paul being one of them. Returning to the team after a while, Paul had a disastrous outing against Hyderabad - scoring 19 and a duck - but the 22-year-old bounced back with a 124 against Delhi in the previous game and followed it up with a 55 in the first innings against Mumbai and now an unbeaten century.
“I am very happy for Pradosh. I know what he has gone through, right from U-19 days, he has been a prolific run-scorer. In the senior level, he made his debut two or three years ago but was in and out of the team. Against Delhi, he was under pressure, and it was the right time that he got his hundred and then capitalised on that,” Indrajith said.
Ahead of the game against Mumbai, Indrajith had stressed on the fact that his team will take it session by session before pushing for an outright victory. And with the game evenly poised, the Tamil Nadu captain wants to approach according to the situation on the final day, making sure that there are no slip-ups.
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