Dark skies, continual drizzle and a covered pitch – not the best of sights for a team seeking full points on the eve of a crucial Ranji game. The setting is sombre but Tamil Nadu needs to stay upbeat. Apart from Tripura, it has another adversary in the game beginning Saturday - the weather.

Rain has been forecast on all four days and the downpour could be heavy on the last two.

For a Tamil Nadu side, shaken up by Andhra, it could be a race against time. Given that the side has only five more matches – it conceded the lead to Andhra – and only two from the group qualify for the quarterfinals, it needs an outright win against a relatively weaker side such Tripura.

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Tamil Nadu might be strengthened by the inclusion of Dinesh Karthik. The wicketkeeper-batsman would fly here on Saturday morning from Hyderabad after the conclusion of the India-Australia Twenty20 series on Friday night. Karthik’s aggressive batting could be valuable in what might prove a rain-shortened game - he might lift the morale, too, with his chirpy presence behind the stumps.

Encouragement for pacers

There could be another change in the XI with pace-bowling all-rounder J. Kousik coming in for B. Aparajith who has joined the India ‘A’ squad. Left-handed batsman Anirudh Sitaram, originally named Aparajith’s replacement, has an eye infection. Given the pitch’s sweating under the covers and all the rain around, there could be moisture on the track early on to encourage pacemen. Bowling first might not be a bad option if the cloud cover continues.

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Tamil Nadu will have to choose between left-arm spinners - Rahil Shah and R. Sai Kishore. The extra bounce that the lanky Sai Kishore extracts adds to his credentials. The surface is devoid of grass and, like the wicket against Andhra, might not break up even on the last day.

In the Tripura side, Smit Patel is an attacking batsman and a smart wicket-keeper. Yashpal Singh has runs and the experience of playing league cricket in Chennai behind him. Rana Datta is a capable paceman. Tamil Nadu has to set the pace early – with a bunch of wickets or some quick runs.

Tamil Nadu (from): Abhinav Mukund (c), M. Vijay, M. Kaushik Gandhi, K. Dinesh Karthik (wk), B. Indrajith, R. Ashwin, M. S. Washington Sundar, J. Kousik, Rahil Shah, K. Vignesh, L. Vignesh, S. Sai Kishore, Malolan Rangarajan, V. Lakshman, R. Rohith (wk), N. Jagadeesan (wk).

Tripura (from): M. Murasingh (c), Udiyan Bose, Smit Patel (wk), Bishal Ghosh, R. Banik, Yashpal Singh, A. Dey, Gurinder Singh, Samrat Singh, Abhijit Sarkar, Rana Datta, Ajay Sarkar, Joydeep Banik (wk), Joydeep Bhattacharjee, Dwaipayan Bhattacharjee.

Match starts at 9.30 a.m.