Ranji Trophy 2017-18: Tamil Nadu’s opportunity to break title drought
Over the last 29 years, Tamil Nadu, despite being one of the most talented sides in India, have not brought home the prestigious Ranji Trophy title. After winning it way back in the 1987-88 season, Tamil Nadu have reached the finals on six occasions but fallen at the final hurdle.
The Abhinav Mukund-led side had an impressive 2016-17 season before losing in the semifinal to Mumbai. How will they fare this time around? Here is a SWOT analysis of their side ahead of the 2017-18 season.
The inclusion of Test stars M Vijay and R Ashwin for the first couple of games has given the side a massive boost as both are match winners in their own right. When you add the skipper, Mukund, they are a potent side as you don’t often see teams have the luxury of three Test cricketers in the XI for a first-class game.
There is a lot of stability in the top and middle order with the likes of Kaushik Gandhi, brothers Baba Aparajith, Baba Indrajith and the young rising star Washington Sundar. Once Dinesh Karthik and Vijay Shankar return after their India and India-A commitments respectively, this becomes one of the best batting lineups in the country this season.
Their inability to close out games, especially knock-out ones, has come back to haunt them over the years. Tamil Nadu have often been found wanting mentally in pressure situations and have been defensive in their approach.
One of the great examples of this is the selection of an additional batsman in the XI instead of a spinner on a dry surface against Mumbai in the semifinal last season. Tamil Nadu bowled last on a wearing pitch but did not have the bowling options to put one over on one of the giants in Indian domestic cricket.
BCCI’s “neutral venue” trial last season didn’t go well with many present cricketers as well as administrators, and hence they have gone back to home and away matches this season. Tamil Nadu are playing their first two matches at home in Chepauk and with many stars available, can look to start the season well, which will go a long way in them qualifying for the knock-outs.
After his exploits for Rising Pune Supergiant in the IPL earlier this year, Washington Sundar has so far grabbed all the opportunities that have come his way. The tall all-rounder’s career growth, particularly in the longer format, will be keenly watched.
Injuries to key pacemen Aswin Crist and T Natarajan might worry Tamil Nadu. While the former is all but out for the entire season with a back injury, the latter is not yet sure about his availability. Also, the team could be without R Ashwin and M Vijay during the end of the league phase and also the knockouts.
They have four spin bowling options (all are finger spinners) but a lack of a wrist spinner might be felt, especially on flat batting tracks.