Reflections on the Ranji Trophy December 23, 2010

What's ailing Tamil Nadu?

The players are immensely talented but once they are put together as a unit it suddenly changes

What is ailing Tamil Nadu? Why are they unable to win the Ranji Trophy? In this decade they entered the finals twice (on both occasions they failed to break Mumbai's defiant spirit), reached the semi-finals twice and made the quarterfinals thrice. Otherwise they failed to reach the knockouts three times. Once considered contenders in the country's elite competition they have now slipped to being little more than pretenders.

As part of the 1988 winning team it is my fervent wish to see Tamil Nadu lift the trophy but one that has consistently remained unfulfilled. This year they once again have an opportunity to correct all the wrongs which have been dogging them for many years.

Winning teams always hold the edge over the rest of the opposition by their ability to identify the crucial moments and take charge. The Ranji finals in 2003 and 2004 are classic examples where Tamil Nadu were ahead of Mumbai, but failed to force the issue when it mattered the most. In the first instance they shot out Mumbai early in the first innings but instead of seizing the advantage the top-order defended early on. Eventually they did take a slender lead, but Mumbai just smashed the visitors' bowling to erase the deficit quickly and set a big winning target. Tamil Nadu succumbed easily during the chase.

The year after that, playing at home, after winning the toss on a batting pitch Tamil Nadu were five down at lunch with some irresponsible strokes from senior batsmen. These are the big moments I am talking about, instances where Mumbai have seized the moment.

I distinctly remember being forced to eat my words three seasons ago when Mumbai were on the verge of relegation, but found remarkable strength to challenge the adversity. They had got off to the worst possible start during the league phase and were on the verge of a humiliating relegation, but found the gumption and showed the tenacity to bounce back in the nick of time. Importantly, they were not concentrating on retention in the elite group. They focused instead on re-grouping and retained the crown.

Another important element that favours Mumbai is the emergence of rescue artists when the team is in dumps. Tamil Nadu have sorely missed such men. It could be because these things come with experience, when players assume responsibility, identify the right moment to go for the kill and not hold back. It is about survival. Such traits are ingrained in Mumbai's players very well. They might lose the odd league match but you rarely see them missing the big moment because they know the entire team will be after them. And, remember this, they have managed to do this with a modest talent.

Experienced guys like Ajit Agarkar leads the bowling pack. Ramesh Powar takes over the spin mentor role while Jaffer puts his arm of assurance across the shoulder of young batsmen. That is the key to success and Tamil Nadu need to adopt such a policy. Over the years I have been watching them, I feel that certain players are put under undue burden. For example in the bowling department there is an over-reliance on Laxmipathy Balaji.

Balaji can't be bowling 25 overs a day; he should be actually bowling about 15 and helping others bowlers. It is also for him to understand that he is now in a senior role and he needs to manage the youngsters and show them the direction rather than just be a workhorse. Luckily for him now there is R Ashwin who has shown good promise and enthusiasm to share the workload.

Tamil Nadu have to now take a few leaves out of the Mumbai's book: respect the key moments and identify the players who are going to deal effectively with them. S Badrinath is fighting his own battles and desperately waiting to break into the Indian team. But he can continue scoring runs alongside helping young batsmen maximise their talent.

Dinesh Karthik has tremendous potential with the bat. The moment has arrived for him to put forth his best. They say rising tide lifts all boats. Despite his shortcomings as a captain he remains a gamechanger. It is here the leader needs hands on board. Balaji and Ashwin must be on the look out to provide the twists and turns. This should ease the captain to focus on significant contribution from young batsmen like Abhinav Mukund, Vasudeva Das, Arun Karthick, and Suresh Kumar and when the chips are down the best chip to have the experienced Badrinath and R Satish.

All these players are immensely talented but once they are put together as a unit it suddenly changes. Therein lies the knot that Tamil Nadu have been trying hard to untangle for years. Players should recognise the fact that scoring big runs or taking 5-fors is not done only from the selection point of view. Rather it should be that they should enjoy each other's company. Most of their players have been part of the victorious Chennai Super Kings teams that won the IPL and the Champions League where they learned to assimilate with players from various parts of India and abroad, where they learnt how to contribute to the winning strategy and accomplish their roles. That and the fact that Tamil Nadu are winning in the one-day format is evidence that they know what needs to be done but at the same time their focus is short-lived.

A former Tamil Nadu opening batsman, VB Chandrasekhar played seven ODIs for India and was a member of the national selection committee from 2004-06

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • TR on December 28, 2010, 5:24 GMT

    Badri keeps performing in spite of not yet getting a permanent place in India team. Other TN players are getting the inspiration to perform so, TN will win. Badri, DK, Ashwin, MVijay & Balaji already India players and Mukund, knocking at the door .. And others are in good form as well. I can clearly see the *spirit to perform with calmness* has increased in TN team so much. You guys are THE best team in India. I have absolutely no doubt that TN will win this time and next many years to come. I am already seeing the smiling faces of TN players with the champions cup.

  • Rajesh Kumar on December 24, 2010, 4:18 GMT

    no issues..we will repeat those historic moments confidently..we will definitely win..friends give some positive comments that should encourage them and we can show our rights to get in to the indiam tem especially for badri

  • gopal on December 23, 2010, 12:56 GMT

    From what i have seen so far, Dinesh Karthik is not a great captain. VB's point that the team is not focused as a unit might be related to DK not being able to fultil that role properly.

    We will miss M Vijay, but Anirudha should take the opportunity. Bowlers is the biggest worry... you cannot win matches with only a couple of experienced bowlers.

  • Sundar on December 23, 2010, 12:50 GMT

    Nice piece by VB. The TN team has promised a lot over the years but failed to deliver. Somehow, they fail to win the 'big moments.' there are talented players but they need to perform in unison if the team has to win the titles. That is where Mumbai stands out in the Indian scene. They fight back from near-lost positions to emerge victorious. The TN team has managed to reach the last eight this time. hope they can make a good fist of it

  • Dummy4 on December 23, 2010, 12:45 GMT

    Despite high level of performance, guys like Badri overlooked by Indian team...he is one such case and many were in the part. Now, Karthik joins the queue and dropped without any reasons. If this happens for ever, no one will have interest. All will think about IPL chances and make some quick buck...

  • Dummy4 on December 23, 2010, 12:23 GMT

    The TN Ranji Team Captained by S.Venkataraghavan, was the best, superier in all departments, especially the spin combination of VV Kumar & Venkataraghavan was simply superb. But that Team never won a Ranji final, inspite the best batting line ups, the calibre of players like V.Sivaramakrishnan (unlucky not to play for the country) V.Krishnaswamy, P.Ramesh, Abdul Jabbar, TE Srinivasan, P.Mukund, S.Vasudevan, Bharat Kumar, Bharat Reddy, VV Kumar, S.Venkataraghavan & Kalyanasundaram - what a side indeed, simply incomparable!!!!!

  • Dummy4 on December 23, 2010, 6:27 GMT

    Chandrashekar does not appreciate one key factor that makes Bombay stay away from the crowd. That is the batsman-ship and mentor-ship.

    I am glad that Karnataka has started the tradition of mentor-ship. Non-playing, ex-players guiding the present players in the true guru-shishya tradition. If every player in the XI has one or two experienced, solid mentors within the team and outside, the players are able to get the required focus faster. The team management moves beyond the captain and manager / coach and includes a team of like thinking men, all focused on a single destination. All teams need to emulate Karnataka & Bombay.

    Bombay also have an unbroken tradition of wonderful batsmen playing straight. They have always been the backbone of Indian batting [Vishwanath, Jaysimha, Pataudi, Dravid considered]. Tendulkar, Manjrekar, Vengsarkar, Gavaskar, Sardesai, Merchant ... the list is practically endless. Each person reinforced other. Tamil Nadu needs to build this tradition.

  • aravamuthan on December 23, 2010, 6:19 GMT

    The fact remains that despite scoring consistently season after season, Badri has not got his due. Its amazing that he responds by being the bulwark of TN this season by scoring 30% of his team's total score. Its time that other batsmen stand counted and contribute to the team's success. Eagerly awaiting Dinesh Kartick to explode into form whereby team gets immensely benefited. Talents galore but TN has to hunt as a unit with killer instinct. Let them go match by match. Good luck!

  • Kannan on December 23, 2010, 6:18 GMT

    The Tamil Nadu boys do not come across as mentally strong batsmen when under pressure to perform consistently (Eg : Kartik, Badri, Aniruddha, Vijay). They seem to be poor in fielding and drop a lot of catches in high visibility games. Apart from Ashwin, they don't really have stand out bowlers. Balaji is a has been. And bowlers win matches. The author is right in the sens that the TN boys don't play as a unit and for that the captain and the coach is to blame, for they are responsible for drawing the line and getting the team members to straighten out their attitude.

  • No featured comments at the moment.