Madurai Super Giant in TNPL 2017: A tale of broken promises
It seemed like a fresh start. The demons of the dreadful 2016 season banished as the second edition of the Tamil Nadu Premier League approached. A new season promised so much more.
Much like Rising Pune Supergiants before the start of this year's IPL, they had lost the "s" and now were the Madurai Super Giant. In the TNPL Draft before the start of the season, they got the players they wanted in the draft and began the season with nine changes. Former Chennai Super Kings and Tamil Nadu opener Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan brought an air of calmness with him as he took over as head coach, to a franchise that was in turmoil just over a year ago.
Unfortunately for the Madurai franchise, the pale shadow of defeat has been lurking in the darkness and continued to haunt them. And just like that, a promising start was put to bed, once again, after Chepauk Super Gillies beat them by five wickets with an over to spare on Sunday at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.
Defeat against the Super Gillies was their fourth of this year's competition and meant that they lost any hopes they had of making it to the playoffs. To make matters worse, that was their 11th successive defeat and despite several changes, they remain the only side yet to win a game in the competition.
At the start of the season, the spirits were high. Vidyut wanted his players to replicate Dhoni's calmness under pressure and just " focus on doing the simple things" as " T20s are won and lost" depending on how you play under pressure.
KB Arun Karthick's side seemed to be carrying no baggage from their disastrous performance in 2016 but as the season has gone on, it seems as though the baggage has remained, invisible but yet always lurking in the shadows.
Speaking after the defeat against CSG, Vidyut said that there has been a lot of pressure but added that they have played well, even if the results don't agree with that assessment as they are yet to win a game.
"It hurts a lot. I’ve tried everything possible," he added. Even as he uttered those words, the agony was evident in his eyes. At times, Vidyut might have been tempted to just go out and bat to save his team's blushes. After all, MS Dhoni (36), his captain during his stint with Chennai Super Kings is still out there playing for India and the southpaw is still only 35.
Before the start of the season, the 35-year-old picked out the captain as one to watch out for. And Arun Karthick has certainly delivered with the bat. He has back-to-back fifties in his last two games and almost single-handedly helped drag his team over the line. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be as lack of support from the other batsmen and the bowlers extended Madurai's losing streak to 11.
If the defeat against Ruby Trichy Warriors in the game at Dindigul was soul-crushing especially after the start they had, courtesy of Arun Karthik, the one against Chepauk in Chennai must be an even tougher pill to swallow as it was a microcosm of their season so far.
At 116/0 at the end of 12 overs, Madurai would have been looking at a score of nearly 200, or at least 180 with both their openers batting on half centuries. But the dismissal of the top three in the space of six balls, in the 13th over made life difficult. Even after that, they struggled to rotate strike and could only end up with 163 on the board. In the field, they were sloppy, dropping catches and misfielding and just didn't have their radar on with the ball and ended up losing the game with an over to spare despite having CSG in a spot of bother in the middle.
As difficult as it is for Madurai Super Giant, the season is still not over. While they may be out, they need to carry on the spirit that they have shown in the last couple of games, where they have come close enough to smell the scent of victory.
Towards the end, Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan was honest in his assessment and realistic in his ambitions.
He said: "I’m just hoping we can win a couple of games so that we can come back and find a better combination for the next year. We still have three games to go; I think if we can win two it will show a lot of character. That’s what is required now."
And while they might not have much to play for in their remaining three games, pride can be a powerful motivator. As is the opportunity to ensure that they make it difficult for other teams to qualify for the playoffs even if they can't do so themselves.
While there is no doubt that the pale shadow of defeat has been lurking in the darkness and continued to haunt Madurai Super Giant this season, the time is ripe for them to banish their ghosts. Ensure there is a clean slate and something to work with when the third edition of the TNPL comes around.