Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy: Tamil Nadu faces stiff Rajasthan challenge in opener

A young side led by the experienced R. Ashwin will, over the next two weeks, compete in the Group B matches of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy

India international R. Ashwin will lead Tamil Nadu in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.   -  K. Murali Kumar

In a season where things have gone horribly wrong, this is Tamil Nadu’s last opportunity at a redemption of sorts, even if it comes only in the Twenty20 format.

A young side led by the experienced R. Ashwin will, over the next two weeks, compete in the Group B matches of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

It is a group that also has Vidarbha, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, finishing among the top two teams and qualifying for the knock-out phase will be demanding.

Tamil Nadu takes on Rajasthan in the first match at the C.B. Patel Stadium on Thursday and it should be an interesting clash.

The red soil pitch for the match has a fair amount of grass. There will be some bounce and seam movement for the pacemen and a measure of assistance for the spinners too because of the red soil.

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The Tamil Nadu batting is bound to be tested by a potent Rajasthan pace attack that includes left-arm seamer Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar, Aniket Chaudhary and Nathu Singh.

This is among the most potent pace packs in domestic cricket. Left-armer Khaleel has pace and can move the sphere into the right-hander, Deepak Chahar swings it both ways, left-armer Aniket has velocity and deviation and Nathu Singh can make the batsmen hurry their strokes.

And Rajasthan has an in-form leg-spinner in Rahul Chahar. Like bowlers of his breed, he is attacking in his mindset.

Rajasthan’s batting does not quite has as much depth and the Tamil Nadu bowlers will fancy its chances. But then, it will have to reckon with skipper Mahipal Lomror and Robin Bist, two quality batsmen with strokes.

Tamil Nadu banks on Ashwin

Tamil Nadu will look at Ashwin for inspiration. He has a reputation for doing things differently. He can shuffle the batting order, throw up surprises with the ball, have unconventional fields. You don’t quite know what to expect.

The side has multi-dimensional cricketers. Ashwin and vice-captain Washington Sundar are off-spinning all-rounders, while J. Kousik, M. Mohammed, Abhishek Tanwar and R. Rohith - are all pacemen who can bat usefully.

Wicket-keeper batsman N. Jagadeesan is a free-stroker at the top of the order. The experienced shot-maker S. Anirudha is also in the mix. The left-handed Hari Nishaanth is a graceful batsman and Shahrukh Khan, a natural shot-maker who can send down useful off-spin.

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R. Vivek is the power hitter down the order - the sort of batsman Tamil Nadu needs in this format. The cultured Baba Indrajith offers stability to the innings.

Paceman K. Vignesh gets an opportunity to prove he has rediscovered his rhythm. Lanky left-armer Sai Kishore and leg-spinner Murugan Ashwin are the spin options at Ashwin’s disposal. The selection of the eleven will not be an easy exercise.

In what promises to be a cracker of a contest, this match could go down to the wire.

Play starts at 9.30 AM