Donning the Tamil Nadu colours, be it in the shorter formats or the longest version, is the ultimate aim of many a youngster. However, it's only a few who get to live the dream.

There is so much talent in the State that it’s a tough call for the selectors to pick the right bunch. And the players, particularly those in the current Ranji Trophy squad, understand what it means to just be in the squad. “Playing for Tamil Nadu is something that I have earned through hard work and hardship. It feels good to represent a State that has produced greats for Indian cricket,” said Sai Kishore.

The left-arm spinner, who has made heads turn with his consistent performances and will be part of the Chennai Super Kings dugout in IPL 2020, came into the Tamil Nadu fold in 2016, for the Vijay Hazare Trophy. “The first thing that ran in my mind was to give everything for my side in every session, be it in Ranji, one-dayers or T20s,” said Sai Kishore.

“It’s an honour and a huge responsibility for me to keep up the benchmark that the others have set for the side,” he added.

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Strong bond

“We have been working a lot taking cricket as our profession and have always had the aspiration of playing for the State. It not only involves a lot of pride but is also a good stepping stone for every player. We will continue to stay together and win matches for the State,” said wicketkeeper-batsman N. Jagadeesan, also a CSK member.

Hari Nishaanth, who made his debut against Madhya Pradesh in Indore last week, said it was a dream to be part of the team. “I know it’s a big side and a big stage for me. Now that I have got the chance, I will work hard and give everything for my State.

“When I played the first match, there was not much pressure because the senior cricketers had given me a free hand. The bonding is really strong between the players,” he said.

“About 15 guys from such a big State wearing those colours is indeed an honour. Not everyone gets this chance. More than opportunity, it’s pride and accomplishment for us,” said Kaushik Gandhi.

“I always think about bailing the team out in crunch situations because it has more value. And, when you do that, it gives you a special feeling,” he added.

Getting back into the side, Kaushik Gandhi made his presence felt with a match-saving 154 against Madhya Pradesh in Indore last week.  It's the joy and privilege of representing a State like Tamil Nadu that keeps inspiring the Sai Kishores and Kaushik Gandhis.