Vijay Hazare Trophy: Ashwin, Vijay set to play for TN

R. Ashwin and M. Vijay are set to feature for Tamil Nadu in its bid to defend its title, when the Group C leg begins on Monday.

Tamil Nadu coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar (left) and Vijay Shankar during a practice session at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.   -  R. Ragu

All eyes will be on R. Ashwin and M. Vijay as they provide star power to the Group C leg of the Vijay Hazare Trophy that starts here on Monday. The India Test team regulars will be expected to help Tamil Nadu (TN) defend its title.

TN ended last season on a high, winning the Vijay Hazare and Deodhar Trophy, and had been expected to use the momentum this year. Instead, the domestic season so far has been disappointing - a fifth position in the group stages of the Ranji Trophy followed by a below-par performance in the second stage of the the domestic T20 league.

TN will begin its title defence against Gujarat on Monday and try to salvage something out of this season and the home advantage - team will play at four venues in the city- will come handy.

‘Complete player’ Ashwin

Even though Ashwin has not been part of the limited-overs set up for the last six months with the national side, the India off-spinner brings a lot to the table and coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar said, “We expect everything from him. He is a complete player. He has got the experience and has played Test cricket at a very high level recently.”

The defending champion, though, will miss the services of Dinesh Karthik who played a stellar role last season in the triumph. “DK’s main advantage, apart from his ability, was his experience. So this year we are one year older. We are more experienced. The guys have learnt a lot from him and I am sure they are willing to apply that now. So we are in a good place,”said Kanitkar.

Read: Chhattisgarh faces stiff challenge in Saurashtra

Ashwin and Vijay had had a hit on Saturday but did not practice on Sunday. Both are expected to be available for the game.

TN’s opponent Gujarat will have a tough challenge to contend with. The 2016-17 Ranji champion will also be without the services of Parthiv Patel, who is expected to join the squad only for the last three matches after having picked up an injury in the last Test against South Africa.

Skipper Priyank Panchal, however, felt that his side has the experience to compete hard in the competition despite missing Patel and Jasprit Bumrah, who is on national duty. The side will benefit by the presence of Piyush Chawla, who knows the grounds here well, thanks to his stint with Jolly Rovers in the first division league. Skipper Panchal said he will rely upon Chawla during the matches.

The venue, MRF-Pachaiyappa's, with its short boundaries and fast outfields, is known for high-scoring games and the batsmen will have a huge role to play.

Group C matches
  • Madhya Pradesh vs Mumbai (M. A. Chidambaram Stadium); Tamil Nadu vs Gujarat (MRF-Pachaiyappa’s); Andhra vs Rajasthan (SSN College).
  • All matches begin at 9 a.m.