Ranji Trophy 2018-19: M. Suresh Kumar recollects Kerala’s famous win over TN

In the 1994-95 Ranji Trophy, M. Suresh Kumar took 12 wickets to steer Kerala to its first win over Tamil Nadu, and to a berth in the knockout round. The left-arm spinner feels Kerala can upset its regional rival again when they meet on Thursday.

M. Suresh Kumar, the architect of Kerala's 123-run victory in 1994-95. Photo: Special Arrangement

As Kerala gears up to face regional powerhouse Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy on Thursday, it can look back with pride on its only victory against the opponent — at the Victoria College Ground in Palakkad, 23 years ago.

Kerala, with an unexpected win, had qualified for the knockout round of the tourney for the first time. The architect of the famous win was left-arm spinner M. Suresh Kumar, who took 12 for 164 (six-for-96 and six-for-68) in the match. Captain Ananthapadmanabhan was injured — he had bowled only five overs in the first innings — and didn’t bowl in the second innings.

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However, Suresh Kumar stepped in and took up the responsibility.

‘Formidable side’

“Tamil Nadu was a formidable side with the likes of W. V. Raman, V. B. Chandrashekar, Robin Singh, S. Sharath, M. Venkatramana, Balaji Rao and D. Vasu. They were the favourites but I think they underestimated us and paid the price. For a left- arm spinner bowling against a line-up with left handers is a nightmare. There was some turn in the wicket but it wasn’t unplayable. I bowled tightly and didn’t give many loose deliveries. Ramprakash also bowled well from the other end and kept up the pressure. We were helped by some excellent catching especially by Shankar at short-leg. The catch he took to dismiss a well-settled Raman in the first innings was the turning point in the match,” the 45-year old Suresh recalled.

Can the current Kerala side conjure an upset win over Tamil Nadu? According to M. Suresh Kumar, "I think they can pull off a win."

 

“After conceding a small lead (17 runs), we really batted well in the second innings. P. G. Sundar scored a century and Ajay Kuduva, in his debut match, played a crucial knock to set a challenging target of 271 for Tamil Nadu. The key wicket was that of Robin Singh and Sunil Oasis got rid of him. The pitch was helping me and I got some balls to jump and turn, and it was difficult to play me. I still remember Narayanankutty taking the catch offered by Gokulakrishnan in the slips and sprinting to the pavilion. It is easily the high point of my cricketing career,” said Suresh, who has taken 198 first-class wickets.

Impressing against the Kiwis

Known as Umbri among his friends and in cricketing circles, Suresh was an an ultimate team man. He represented the India Under-19 team in 1990 under Rahul Dravid’s captaincy, and played a Youth Test and a one-day series against New Zealand Under-19, which had the likes of Stephen Fleming and Dion Nash.

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“I was selected for the South Zone team for the tour game against the Kiwis, and I took nine wickets in an innings in that match. I was selected for the following two Test matches (sic) and one-day series against New Zealand,” he said.

The current Kerala side can defeat Tamil Nadu, feel Suresh. The two sides are playing each other after 16 years. “I think Tamil Nadu is not playing well this season and given Kerala’s performance this season I feel they can pull off a win,” he said.