An inexperienced Tamil Nadu, low on confidence and weakened by the absence of key players, seeks to salvage its Ranji Trophy campaign when it takes on Madhya Pradesh here at the Holkar stadium starting Wednesday.

Coming into its third match, TN was already battered and bruised after defeats in its first two matches against Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, in Dindigul.

And to make matters worse it was dealt bigger blows when key members of the squad R. Ashwin and Abhinav Mukund had to miss out on this game due to international commitments and personal reasons respectively.

The batting unit in the first two matches looked out of depth for the rigours of first-class cricket with Dinesh Karthik, who is not part of this match, being the only batsman to go past 50.

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The absence of Abhinav at the top of the order exposes the team to more instability especially on what could be a conducive wicket for the pacers.

Except for skipper B. Aparajith, the batting unit is grossly inexperienced and a lot will depend on the returning of M. Kaushik Gandhi and the out-of-form N. Jagadeesan to deliver.

Between L. Suryapprakash, V. Ganga Sridhar Raju and K. Mukunth - two of whom might have to open, there is a total of just six first-class matches worth of experience between them.

While TN bowlers did well to take 20 wickets in both its matches, Ashwin did the heavy lifting accounting for nearly half of it with 17 wickets.

With conditions favourable for pacers, K. Vignesh and T. Natarajan alongside J. Kousik will have to be sharp and aggressive. At least one spinner will have to make way for a medium-pacer be it M. Mohammed or Abhishek Tanwar.

Coach D. Vasu said: “It is a crucial game for us and we are missing six of our key players. So it is going to be tough but it is up to the youngsters to step up and make sure they grab their chances. With only five out 18 teams qualifying from group A & B, we need to go for outright wins.”

Like TN, Madhya Pradesh also comes into the game on the back of a one-wicket loss to Baroda in the last round.

However, the team has just played one match and wouldn’t be too worried. The team fought back strongly after it conceded a 97-run lead and made Baroda sweat it out to chase a target of 174.