Ranji Trophy: Time for Tamil Nadu to step up its game

Tamil Nadu, with seven points from three games, is third in Group C. It needs to address several issues to get its first victory of the season.

With Murali Vijay out for Test duty, skipper and opener Abhinav Mukund needs to lift his performance.   -  V. GANESAN

The coming days will probe Tamil Nadu’s resolve and character as the side seeks solutions to vexing questions.  

The team needs to be at the top of its game to qualify for the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals as one of the two teams from Group ‘C.’

Tamil Nadu is third in the table with seven points from three games, behind Andhra (nine) and Madhya Pradesh (14). Mumbai, on four from two, could well win the on-going duel against Odisha.

Rested from the present round of matches, Tamil Nadu has to hit the ground running on return. The side could need two outright wins and a lead from its three remaining games – an away match against Odisha before taking on Baroda and MP at home.

Apart from having to find an elusive win, Tamil Nadu also needs to keep an eye on the skies. Bad light and rain denied the side an outright win over Tripura at Chepauk, and inclement weather in even one of the two home games could ruin its prospects.

Despite taking the lead in the away game against Mumbai – a creditable feat – there are problems for the side.

The top-order has been porous. Tamil Nadu was reduced to 41 for three by Andhra before being dismissed for 176 on day one.

If it bats first, the side has to make a big total, and how it copes with the first session on day one is critical. With Murali Vijay out for Test duty, skipper and opener Abhinav Mukund needs to lift his performance.

When the team was reduced to 34 for one by Mumbai, hundreds from B. Indrajith and Yo Mahesh and a fighting half-century by Washington Sundar took Tamil Nadu past the host’s total.

The in-form Washington – the left-hander notched up an elegant hundred as an opener against Tripura – could walk out with Abhinav in the remaining games.

Kaushik Gandhi, so impressive at No. 3 last season, has found runs hard to come by. He needs to tighten his game around off-stump and find the right balance between defence and offence.        

Tamil Nadu has to shut out the opposition when it gets an opening. Andhra was 64 for five but recovered to 309. Tripura was 41 for three but progressed to 258. The catching has to be razor sharp.

Seamer K. Vignesh, with his lively pace and line, has been impressive while L. Vignesh and Yo Mahesh have shone in patches. However, the spin attack, in the days of neutral curators, has not quite found its mojo.  

Without Ravichandran Ashwin in the remaining league matches, the side has to find a spin combination that bowls in tandem, builds pressure and picks wickets. A wrist spinner, an attacking option, would have helped but there is none in the squad.