TNPL 2018: Siechem Madurai Panthers - 689 days, 16 matches, 1 win
The ownership, team name, kit colour, captain, players, support staff, everything changed for the franchise from Madurai coming into the 2018 Tamil Nadu Premier League. But, one thing, the most important thing, remained the same. Siechem Madurai Panthers, formerly known as Madurai Supergiants failing to register a win in the tournament.
Even after putting a score in excess of 170, they lost their first match of 2018 TNPL to Dindigul Dragons by nine wickets and 28 balls to spare.
This loss marked Madurai's 15th consecutive defeat, the second most by an Indian T20 side after Jammu and Kashmir's 22. In fact, this side has never won a single match in the history of TNPL and the curse continued in the third season of TNPL as well. They tried everything but the elusive win was far-fetched.
It was very hard to see the faces of former captains Shijit Chandran and KB Arun Karthik during the post-match media interactions on a regular basis. These two are probably the only players (among the ones who have played at least two seasons) who haven't been a part of the winning side in a TNPL match.
In spite of this, the players put the past behind them and started preparing for the next match as if nothing had happened in a bid to register their first win. The same happened after the Dindigul Dragons defeat. The players went back to their basics, worked hard to earn a win and looked confident when they took the field against the defending champions Chepauk Super Gillies in their second match of the 2018 season at the ICL cricket ground in Tirunelveli.
After being put into bat, they were reduced to 37/3 after the field restriction overs and had already lost the wickets of skipper D Rohit, KB Arun Karthik and X Thalaivan Sargunam. Yet another 'L' was looming large. Shijit and Nilesh Subramaniam stitched together a 44-run stand for the fourth wicket before Nilesh departed for 31 off 28 balls.
Shijit and J Kousik joined hands together and tried to pull things back and give the bowlers something to bowl out. Shijit got out for a 29-ball 37 while Kousik hit some lusty blows towards the end made sure his side was in a pole position to cross the 150-mark when he departed for 37 off 21 balls.
Panthers crumbled to 153/9 in their 20 overs on a wicket that was damp and was on the slower side. But still, 153 is a target that can be achieved in 20 overs as the chasing team needed just four or five good overs. The Panthers bowlers started off on a brilliant note as they choked the run flow in the first six overs.
That's when the Panthers spinner spun the match in favour of their team. Both Rahil Shah and CV Varun were outstanding and took three wickets apiece and put Panthers in a striking distance from their first-ever win. Even a miracle wouldn't have saved Chepauk as Madurai cleaned the defending champions up for just 127 and registering a win by 46 runs, their first in their three-year history.
It took 689 days for the franchise from Madurai to register their first win in the tournament. Fittingly, KB Arun Karthik sealed the win for Panthers as he took a diving catch at long-on to end the proceedings.
There was a huge sigh of relief on the faces of Madurai players, especially Arun and Shijit. No one deserved this win more than these two players as they gave their everything in the first two seasons without any return.
Both the players were full of smiles during the post-match presentation. "We have been waiting for this for two years. There is no big deal in winning a league match but this is more special for us, especially me and KB, who have been with the team for the third straight season. We haven't won a single game as a franchise so far. More than being happy, I am very emotional after getting this win," Shijit said on the sidelines.
He also feels that the experiences of the players in the current squad have come in handy for them compared to the previous squads. The current squad looks more formidable and balanced than their previous squads and the credit has to be given to the team thinktank at the draft for picking the right players.
"This team is more experienced than the previous teams in terms of both batting and bowling with the likes of Thala and Rahil coming in. Even the all-rounders Abhishek Tanwar and J Kousik have added a lot of value to the side. That experience is coming in handy for us this time. The previous squads were experienced but not in the T20 formats."
"Last time, we had players, mainly the bowlers, who were good in three-day cricket but they couldn't replicate their success in this format. We found it hard to execute our plans. Now with all these experienced players, the execution has become a lot easier and it is one of the main reasons why we registered our first win in TNPL," he added.
Registering their first win in TNPL, the Panthers can now focus on more important things like reaching the playoff, winning the tournament etc. But, Shijit is very clear that the players have to come out of their 15-match losing streak and concentrate on doing the process right.
"We have to come out of the mindset that we have lost 15 consecutive matches. That is the only way we can progress further in this tournament. This win was very important for us as we can focus on what we have to do in the upcoming matches and continue our process," he concluded.
I should consider myself lucky to have witnessed history being created last night in Tirunelveli. I am so happy for the team from Madurai but my only regret after the match was neither Shijit nor Arun Karthick, who have appeared to face the media after almost all of Madurai's losses over the last two years, turned up for the press conference after their first win in the TNPL.
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