Natham, July 19: It’s a battle of champions in Sankar Cement Tamil Nadu Twenty20 Premier League here on Saturday when defending champions Siechem Madurai Panthers lock horns with 2016 winners Tuti Patriots.
Former Tamil Nadu batsman and Madurai captain Arun Karthick is excited at the challenge of defending the crown as no team has done it before.
“No other team has defended the title. I don't see it as a pressure, I see it as a good challenge going into the tournament,” said Karthick. Reflecting on the success of last season after a series of lows when they couldn’t win a single match in 2016 and 2017, Karthick said: “Whatever happened last year is over. It's a fresh season now with fresh challenges. Our focus this season has been to improve our fielding and our middle-order batting. We’ve done our homework right this year,” he added.
Karthick, 33, believes they made some good picks in the players draft and hopes they come good. “Definitely we got what we wanted in the draft. We wanted to strengthen our spin department and we also wanted some batsmen. I think we have got them both covered. There are very exciting talents.”
Karthick says the players to watch out for this season are batsman Tushar Raheja, all-rounder Lokesh Raj and all-rounder Mithun R: “Tushar is a good prospect for Tamil Nadu and so is Lokesh. We've also got Mithun, an off-spin all-rounder who has the ability to spin the ball very well. These guys are made for this format.”
While Madurai is riding high on last season’s success, their rivals Tuti Patriots are keen to be back in the reckoning. The latter slipped to fifth place last season having won the title in the first season and played the final in 2017. They have roped in 12 new players this season, including their captain Subramania Siva.
Siva is banking on the new players to deliver an improved performance this season. “We have picked a few good players from the lower division and also have a bunch of experienced players. The energy has been good in the practice games. We are confident that we'd do well in this tournament. We want to provide opportunities to all the players who we have picked. Meanwhile, we also want to provide a platform for all the upcoming players,” said the 35-year-old all-rounder.
Interestingly, Tuti Patriots hold a 2-1 advantage over Madurai in their three meetings so far.
Match 3:Siechem Madurai Panthers v Tuti Patriots
Venue:NPR College ground, Natham, Dindigul
When:July 20, 2019 (Saturday)
Match timings:7:15 P.M. onwards
Live on:Star Sports: Star Sports 3, Star Sports (Tamil), Vijay Super
Players to watch out:Tushar Raheja, Lokesh Raj (SMP); Athisayaraj Davidson, Akshay Srinivasan (TP)
Head to Head:Siechem Madurai Panthers 1; Tuti Patriots 2
2018 league record: SMP winners; TP finished fifth
Siechem Madurai Panthers:Varun CV, Abhishek Tanwar, Rahil S Shah, Kousik J, Nilesh Subramanian R, Tushar Raheja, Kiran Akash L, Lokesh Raj TD, Sabin Somatha Karnavar, Promoth MS, Arun Karthick KB (captain), Shijit Chandran P, Karthikeyan R.
2019 signings:Adithya Giridhar, Jabez Moses, Akash Sumra, Mithun R, SV Muruganantham, N Selva Kumaran, Sarath Raj A, Veeramani T.
Tuti Patriots:Washington Sundar, Athisayaraj Davidson V, Akshay V Srinivasan, Dinesh S, Abishiek S, Venkatesh A, Nidhish S Rajagopal, Boopalan S, Shubham Mehta S, Ganesh Moorthi M.
2019 signings:Karthik Shanmugham, Vasanth Sarvanan S, Subramania Siva V (captain), Tamil Kumaran, M Kamalesh, M Sathya Raj, B Senthil Nathan, SP Nathan, Akash Sivan, R Karthikeyan, Rahul Raj, Wilkins Victor.Published 19 Jul 2019, 22:31 IST