TNPL 2018: How Madurai found its roar

After two winless seasons, the new-look franchise has turned things around.

Madurai Panthers was the first team to qualify for the TNPL 2018 playoffs.   -  R. Ragu

The Madurai franchise was the only TNPL team that had not won a single game ahead of the third season. This year, new owners came in, and during the draft process, the team - rechristened as Siechem Madurai Panthers - snapped up some solid T20 players. The Panthers was confident of breaking the duck this time. 

However, in its opening match against Dindigul Dragons, N. Jagadeesan and R. Vivek made a mockery of the Panthers’ bowling chasing down a total of 170 in 15.2 overs. 

And the familiar ghosts of the past two seasons threatened to haunt the team again. It was at this moment the team sat together and made a conscious decision to go hard in the next game without thinking about the result to avoid falling in the rut.

Read: Karaikudi loses but secures playoffs berth

In its second game, the Panthers stunned defending champion Chepauk Super Gillies and went on a five-match winning streak to become the first team to reach the playoffs.

K. B. Arun Karthik is one of the survivors of the squad and has led from the top of the order with four half-centuries in seven games. 

The wicket-keeper batsman was retained by the new owners and was instrumental in getting the new mystery spinner C. V. Varun into the side as its first pick of the draft. 

Speaking about that decision, Karthik said, “I had played him in the nets for Vijay CC for a week and most of our players struggled to pick him. Also the teams were starting to get a hang of facing left-arm spinners. So we decided to gamble and it paid off.”

The team also managed to capitalise on the mistakes of a few teams during the draft and managed to get some good players who had done well for other sides in the first two years.

Assistant coach K. Sriram added, “It definitely helps that we have a new setup, the owners are new obviously, the team’s gone through a massive change and from the coaching front we both J. Arun Kumar and myself we come from a setup that is outside of Tamil Nadu, so we don’t quite focus  on what the opposition might be, what the others are doing, we try and focus within ourselves.” 

Another thing the team made good use of the one-month time after the draft to get together and know each other. The team had its practice sessions under lights at a facility near ICF in Chennai and it proved to be valuable ahead of the tournament.

In Sydney Thunder, which remained in the trenches of Big Bash for the first three seasons before winning the 2015-16 edition, Panthers has a good example to emulate when it walks out on the field on Tuesday to take on Dindigul Dragons.