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The first game of the Ranji Trophy is always big for any team, but for us at Tamil Nadu, the season has already been under way for a while. We've played in the Moin-ud-Dowlah Gold Cup and the KSCA Diamond Jubilee Tournament. I'm not sure how it is for teams playing in Central Zone or North Zone, but for us here in the South, especially Tamil Nadu, we've already been playing together for a while.
In the last season this wasn't the case, as we had some seniors in the side and they didn't always play the warm-up tournaments. But this year we have a completely young side. The addition of Badri [S Badrinath] and Dinesh [Karthik] has been a boost for us: it's always good to get cricketers of that quality back in your side.
There's been some talk about the change in the points system, but it doesn't make that much of a difference. Simply because I believe only outright wins should fetch points. You cannot judge a team accurately on the basis of the first-innings leads they have secured. Giving a point to a team that has not conceded an outright win is not that great an idea. When an outright result cannot be reached, the points should be shared between the two teams.
Having said that, Tamil Nadu only won one game outright last season, and it was not the greatest position to be in, having to worry about being relegated to the Plate League. But it wasn't just us. Even champions Mumbai had failed to score a point in their first three games. It's all about the mindset. One victory can change the course of the entire season. For us it was that game against Baroda in which we pulled off an extraordinary win. Almost all the guys who are playing now were part of that team, and I think we would look back at that game at the start of this season.
In a four-day game you have to be extremely focussed on all four days to pull of a win. That's why I again come back to the points system and say it's not the greatest.
Playing with two divisions has its advantages and disadvantages. In one way it's good that all the best players are playing against each other. But it's not that great because good players playing the Plate League don't get the recognition they deserve. Putting all the weaker teams in one group does not help them much. Players in those teams will benefit only when they play against better cricketers. If it's mixed, zone-wise like before, that might benefit the good cricketers who play for the weaker teams.
For me, personally, the last season, my first, was a very important one. Tamil Nadu were experimenting with a few spinners and I'm quite happy that I was part of a side that made some positive strides. Bringing in youngsters was a major priority for Tamil Nadu.
Having done that we got some results. I won't say we did very well, but doing well enough to stay in the Super League, given that we were building a young side, was very important for most of our cricketers.
This season is even more important for me because it gives me a chance to look at things from a new perspective. Firstly, it gives me a chance to build on what I have done in the last season. Also the second season is often tougher in some ways than the first, as there is pressure to deliver if you've succeeded in the first season.
Another dimension that plays a part is the Indian Cricket League (ICL). This has put many state teams on hold. Maharashtra are playing ten new cricketers, Hyderabad have a lot of fresh faces. Many experienced domestic cricketers have gone to the ICL, which gives a chance for talented young cricketers to come to the fore. It's bound to happen that some of these youngsters will perform and establish themselves. From the BCCI's point of view it's not a great move, but inadvertently it's given the youngsters a good platform.
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