Ranji Trophy: TN faces Baroda test

Tamil Nadu's pace spearhead T. Natarajan, who has developed a groin strain, is a doubtful starter for his team's Group A tie against Baroda at the swanky Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium.

Abhinav Mukund has scored two centuries and a fifty in the Ranji Trophy season so far.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

Runs might have to be earned on a greenish surface that could encourage seamers at the swanky Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium. An engrossing contest between bat and ball beckons when Baroda takes on Tamil Nadu (TN) in the Ranji Trophy.

TN has an injury concern ahead of its contest. The side’s pace spearhead T. Natarajan, who has developed a groin strain, is a doubtful starter. The nippy left-armer is critical to his team’s plans.

Interestingly, the previous Ranji Trophy match at this ground this season proved a high-scoring affair. Madhya Pradesh made 445 and Mumbai replied with 568 for seven. However, the TN-Baroda duel will be played on a different track, one which is adjacent to the wicket used for the MP-Mumbai tie that took place last week.

Pathan doubtful

News trickled in late from the Baroda camp that skipper Irfan Pathan may miss the vital Ranji Trophy game here against Tamil Nadu.

Irfan batted and bowled at the nets on Friday afternoon but it is understood that he has still not fully recovered from a bout of flu.

The all-rounder, it is learnt, will take a final call on whether to play or sit out on the morning of the match.

Sources close to Irfan said the cricketer would play only if he was fully fit. “He would not play in a 70-30 scenario. He has made that clear,” said the source.

If Pathan does not play here, then Deepak Hooda will lead the team.



If Natarajan is ruled unfit, then he is likely to be replaced by lanky seamer K. Vignesh. Given the greenish hue of the surface, it remains to be seen whether the team-management chooses to pick an additional paceman in L. Vignesh.

Fourth in Group A with 10 points from four matches, TN requires a positive outcome from the game. The half-way stage of its league engagements has been reached.

Baroda has three points from an equal number of matches and will be eyeing a win on a surface that could churn out a result.

Telling form

TN skipper Abhinav Mukund has been in telling form with the bat even if he has not been able to win any of the tosses this season. Another senior cricketer, the strokeful Dinesh Karthik, too, has been among runs. The younger bunch of Kaushik Gandhi, Baba Indrajith and N. Jagadeesan have notched up hundreds in this campaign so far.

TN will also seek runs though from opener Washington Sundar. The promising southpaw has bowled his off-spinners effectively but needs a breakthrough innings with the willow.

The talented pace bowling all-rounder Vijay Shankar lends balance to the eleven. Shankar returned from injury against Madhya Pradesh.

The side winning the toss will look to insert the opposition to make the most of this pitch. In case it bats first, TN’s top-order will have to hold firm against a good Baroda pace attack that includes former internationals Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel.

With Natarajan’s fitness under a cloud, TN would want paceman Aswin Crist to lift his level by a notch. Among the spinners, left-armer Aushik Srinivas has been impressive; he may have a role later in the game.

Baroda has a competent batting line-up in which top-order batsmen Kedar Devdhar and Dhiren Mistry have been among runs. And the big-hitting Deepak Hooda revealed he could apply himself as well with a mammoth 293 against Punjab. Another brutal striker of the ball, Yusuf Pathan is in the mix too.

This promises to be a high-voltage clash.

The teams:

Tamil Nadu: Abhinav Mukund (captain), Washington Sundar, Kaushik Gandhi, Vijay Shankar, Dinesh Karthik, Baba Indrajith, N. Jagadeesan, Malolan Rangarajan, Aswin Crist, Aushik Srinivas, K. Vignesh, L. Vignesh, T. Natarajan, B. Aparajith, J. Kousik, Rahil Shah.

Baroda: Irfan Pathan (captain), Kedar Devdhar, Dhiren Mistry, Vishnu Solanki, Deepak Hooda, Yusuf Pathan, Swapnil Singh, Pinal Shah, Murtuja Vahora, Munaf Patel, Vijay Halai, Soaeb Tai, Sagar Manglorkar, Viraj Bhonsale.

Other matches (Group A):

>Bengal v Gujarat in Delhi

>Mumbai v Railways in Mysore

>Punjab v Uttar Pradesh in Hyderabad