TNPL: Focus on Jagadeesan and Natarajan as Dragons eye maiden title

In the batting department, the team management will pin its hopes on N. Jagadeesan, who finished last season as the tournament's highest run-scorer, but found little support from the middle order.

Dragon’s bowling prowess would once again come to the fore as it embarks on a quest to clinch its maiden TNPL title.   -  V Ganesan

Dindigul Dragons will be looking to make a statement of intent in the 2017 Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) opener, as it takes on defending champion Albert Tuti Patriots at the M.A. Chidambaram stadium in Chennai on Saturday.

The Dragons impressed in the group stages of the first edition to finish second in the table but came a cropper in the semi-final against Tuti Patriots. The side has retained most of its squad for the second edition and will be looking to build on last season's strengths. It retained batsman S. Dinesh in the player draft and bought Kishan Kumar, a batsman, and Aarif, a wicket-keeper.

Unlike last season, the team will be without star spinner-cum-captain Ravichandran Ashwin for the entire tournament, who is away on international duty. However, the Indian spin spearhead was involved in the Dragons’ state wide selection trails to find young cricketers. Ashwin Venkataraman, a middle-order batsman and a capable medium pacer, will captain the side in his absence.

In the batting department, the team management will pin its hopes on N. Jagadeesan (397 runs), who finished last season as the tournament's highest run-scorer, but found little support from the middle order.

The 21-year-old’s efforts earned him a trial with Royal Challengers Bangalore where he padded up against the likes of Tymal Mills in the nets.

The hard-hitting wicketkeeper-batsman is ready for the challenges the new season will throw at him. “It’s going to be difficult because the bowlers will have a different plan, not bowl the same type of deliveries for me. So, it’s important for me to have plan B as well to counter-attack,” said Jagadeesan.

Jagadeesan’s opening partner, Ganga Sridhar Raju, was the other notable contributor with the bat for Dragons last year. Sridhar has a watertight defence and can play all around the park as witnessed in his recent outings during the TNCA 1 Division league. Riding on impressive scores of 105 and 259, he would be hoping to carry the momentum into the TNPL.

The diminutive Tamil Nadu player could become a dangerous batsman to bowl to in this format, especially after he wears off the early exchanges.

Apart from them, Dragons found batting contributions hard to come by. Murugan Ashwin scored a fighting fifty against Tuti Patriots but he is known rather for his leg-spin. Dragons will want Subramania Siva, Wilkins Victor and Venkataraman to come good with the bat should the openers fail to provide a solid start.

Dragon’s bowling prowess could once again make it a contender for the title. N. Natarajan’s dipping yorkers earned him a lucrative contract at the IPL auction table.

His USP came to the fore in the super-over of the tied game against Tuti Patriots, where he bowled five yorkers; slinging in from a low height into the pads of Abhinav Mukund and Washington Sundar. The southpaw will be looking to summon his IPL experience as the tournament gets underway.

M. Ashwin has been around the blocks for a few seasons under the shadow of his namesake R. Ashwin. Last season, both the bowlers combined to good effect in two matches the latter played. In R. Ashwin’s absence, Murugan took on the mantle of the lead spinner to take 13 wickets. Jharkand-born Sunny Kumar Singh and M. Sanjay were also key bowlers for the Dragons, bagging 11 and 10 wickets respectively in the group stage.

17-year-old spinners M. Silambarasan, left-arm orthodox, and Yazh Arun Mozhi, off-break, made their debuts for the Dragons last season and Venkataraman will no doubt turn to them to spring few surprises.

It was only in the semifinals that Mukund and Dinesh Karthik combined to dismantle its bowling attack. The Dindigul based side will look to right the result against a side which will be without its star performers Mukund and Karthik, both away on national duty.

The Dindigul Dragons would be hoping that its talented squad can do the job as it embarks on its quest to clinch a maiden title.


Squad to choose from:

S. Kishan Kumar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Murugan Ashwin, T. Natarajan, M. Sanjay, N Jagadeesan, Ganga Sridhar Raju, Subramania Siva, Sunny Kumar Singh, K. Mukunth, Wilkins Victor, Ashwin Venkataraman, M.E. Yazh Arun Mozhi, S. Abishiek, R Vivek, Adithya Arun, M. Silambarasan, S. Dinesh, Aarif A.



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