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Ranji Trophy | A campaign with promise ends on a sour note on and off the field for Tamil Nadu


Fresh outlook: Sai Kishore’s men played an aggressive brand of cricket.
| Photo Credit: EMMANUAL YOGINI

Tamil Nadu’s 2023-24 Ranji Trophy season came to an end with a crushing innings and 70-run defeat to Mumbai in the semifinals. Though the meek surrender left many disappointed, TN nonetheless will feel it had a good run in the premier competition after it finally broke a five-season drought of not even qualifying for the knockouts.

R. Sai Kishore’s men played an aggressive brand of cricket and got five outright wins from nine games, including three wins by an innings. The team maximised its strength in home conditions, with the senior batters piling on the runs while the spinners ran through batting line-ups as it bowled out its opposition twice in all games until the semifinal.

ALSO READ: We lost the match at the toss: TN coach Kulkarni

N. Jagadeesan had his best Ranji season with 816 runs, including a triple and double-hundred; he was also impressive with the big gloves. However, modest returns against top teams is something he would want to correct.

B. Indrajith (767 runs) continued to live up to his billing as TN’s crisis man with vital knocks when the team was under pressure. Vijay Shankar and Pradosh Ranjan Paul, too, made crucial runs, with a century each. On the bowling front, Sai Kishore, with his left-arm spin (53), became only the third TN bowler to scalp more than 50 wickets and could even end up as the highest wicket-taker in the competition.

He was ably supported by Ajith Ram (41), and medium-pacer Sandeep Warrier (24) bowled with heart and gave crucial breakthroughs even on slow surfaces.

However, when it came to playing in conditions that helped the seamers, the TN batters’ technical frailties were exposed. The team played only two games on such pitches — the first one in Valsad against Gujarat and the semifinal against Mumbai — and these were the ones in which it suffered outright defeats.

Throughout the season, Sai Kishore spoke about trusting his instincts as captain, and he walked the talk, leading from the front with both bat and ball. But against Mumbai, his decision to bat first on a green top backfired.

If the defeat was bad enough, coach Sulakshan Kulkarni’s post-match comments pinning the blame on the captain for losing the match at the toss made it worse, revealing the schism inside the team.

Former TN cricketers K. Srikkanth, Hemang Badani and Dinesh Karthik called out the coach for letting the team down in public.

“Instead of backing the captain who brought the team to the semifinals after seven years and thinking it’s a start for good things to happen, the coach has thrown his captain and team under the bus. Disappointed at how he reacted and disregarding the senior players who have led from the front is sad to see,” said Karthik.

Despite the loss, the team now has a baseline of performance from which it can build, provided it can iron out some issues, especially on the batting front.



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