Tamil Nadu v Saurashtra, Ranji Trophy, Group B December 2, 2013

Tamil Nadu attack short of firepower

The batting may be filled with heavyweights, but the team's bowling has lost the ability to run through sides
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An assessment of the Tamil Nadu team's competency over the last few seasons reads like a lopsided balance sheet. A team with monumental run-getters who are currently with the Indian team or its fringes, hasn't had a strong bowling attack to complement it. The most revealing figure is the lack of outright victories in the Ranji Trophy in recent seasons. Beyond the batting, the other figures pale in comparison. The checks and balances don't add up, like in plenty of other Ranji teams.

Tamil Nadu have finished Ranji runners-up on three occasions since 2000, the most recent being 2011-12 when they lost out to Rajasthan. Over the last three seasons, including the current one, they have played out a high percentage of draws, in completed games unaffected by the weather. On many occasions, it's been a case of piling on enough runs to try and salvage first-innings points.

Their progression to the 2011-12 final made for staggering reading. They got there by winning just one game, but importantly, didn't lose any. It was like being rewarded merely for staying afloat, rather than swimming to the finish line. Barring a washed-out draw against Baroda, they took innings points in each of their six draws, including the semi-final. Ironically, they were at the receiving end of that strategy in the final against Rajasthan, playing at home. A positive to take from that season was that they bowled teams out twice in a match on three occasions.

They weren't as successful the following season, winning just one game amid six draws. They conceded the innings lead in three of those draws and failed to make the knockouts. They have been without their best bowler R Ashwin, who's been away with the national team. An ageing L Balaji has carried the attack but he hasn't always got the required support in order to consistently take 20 wickets.

The 2011-12 season was relatively better, with the seamer J Kaushik the fifth-highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 28 wickets, followed by the left-arm spinner Aushik Srinivas (24) and seamer V Yomahesh (23). The numbers were poor the following season with M Rangarajan's 16 wickets being the highest, with no state bowler in the top 50. Yo Mahesh was the only bowler to take a five-wicket haul. He's currently not in the squad and in the four matches so far, nobody has taken a five-wicket haul - Srinivas' 4 for 40 is the best innings haul. Bowlers like Aswin Crist are less than a season old and hence too early to pass judgements. In this season, Tamil Nadu have taken ten wickets on only two occasions.

Why is the situation so dire? Sunil Subramaniam, the former Tamil Nadu left-arm spinner who played first-class cricket between 1988 and 2001, believes it's more an issue with the mind, rather than skill.

"It's not simple to put it down to one specific problem," Subramaniam told ESPNcricinfo. "The way they approach the game has changed and with the shorter formats, everything has gone for a toss. I don't see the fire in their belly. Many don't seem to know what their key ball is. They just look to test the patience of the batsmen."

The pitch at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, where they play most of their home matches, has gotten slower since it was relaid and has often been talked about as one of the factors for not producing enough results. Subramaniam, however, doesn't blame the pitches and believes the bowlers can do more with factors they can control.

"What they do in the air is important and I have not seen them work enough on that," he says. "They do not bowl the right lengths. As for the spinners, it's all about the revolutions you put on the ball, the trajectory is very important." With Ashwin being unavailable, the side has blooded youngsters like the left-arm spinner Aushik Srinivas and the offspinner M Rangarajan who need time to develop. Subramaniam believes the current lot can take a cue from Ashwin in terms of developing a stock delivery.

"Everyone looks promising at the age-group level. I don't see the same promise at the later stages. Ashwin has the variety and gets good turn too. I don't see the guys developing a menacing stock ball, something that beats them in flight. There's nothing that stops them from developing it."

Another worrying factor for Tamil Nadu, Subramaniam feels, is the burden on the captain Balaji, whose strike-rate has dropped since coming back from a career-threatening back injury. Balaji's last five-wicket haul in a first-class match came in 2008-09, a season in which he took four in all. Though he plays a good containing role in the T20 format, he hasn't been running through sides in the four-day game ever since.

"There is far too much pressure on him," Subramaniam says. "You can imagine the mountain these guys have to climb when an ageing Balaji is the best bowler in the line-up. Before his injury he would account for nearly 80% of the wickets."

In the ongoing season, Tamil Nadu have played out four draws, taking innings points in two of them. They conceded points to Saurashtra despite scoring 565 and the coach WV Raman said that though the bowling needed consistency, the catching left a lot to be desired. Subramaniam agreed that the dropped catches made the bowlers' figures appear worse than they were but added that the field placements weren't conducive to inducing mistakes from the batsmen.

"I didn't feel the need to have more than two slips," Subramaniam said. "They didn't put enough straight fielders, in catching positions on a driving length. It's alright conceding boundaries square of the wicket. There wasn't enough pressure put on them."

Though it's primarily a young attack, going through a transitional phase, Subramaniam is hopeful things will improve over time. "You have to give them time. The guys are still a work in progress."

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on December 6, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    Mohammed Sunil aswin Balaji Kaushik tn bowling attack

  • on December 6, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    Tn has the worst bowling attack in domestic cricket.last time they scored 500+ twice and lost on both occasions and this year same problem.

  • venkat_75r on December 5, 2013, 13:57 GMT

    @Vagee - I understand your point but Malolan has been given lot of chances already. From what I have seen, he looks more defensive than aggressive. S Suresh Kumar is the leading wicket taker in the TNCA league I guess. Our fast bowling unit looks very poor. Unless Balaji finds his wicket taking form, we are not going to reach the quarters. They have bring some fast bowlers from the U19 team. Also, now that Abinav has come back to form, they have to go with 5 bowlers.

  • ashok16 on December 4, 2013, 18:56 GMT

    I think the Ranji team should stop playing home games in Chepauk. They should instead develop hard bouncy pitches in the dry lands of Dindigul and Tirunelveli in the deep South.

  • chennaitimes on December 4, 2013, 16:19 GMT

    Excellent article and I was telling the same to my friends that the mindset of TN is wrong, we need to go for win rather depending on first inning lead on batting track. I am tired of seeing same performance from TN? We need to accept that our bowling is weak including Ashwin and I don't see our bowlers can take 20 wickets in a match. Look at Mumbai, Delhi they go for sporting pitch when they need a result. Batting,I don't agree our batting is strong as well, look at the scoring rate its very poor that we should have scored another 100 run against saurashtra and that would have put pressure on them in chasing. Including Vijay I don't see our batting can do wonders in a sporting track .Its 26 years now that we won our last Ranji champion and I am one of the few who watched the game live in MAC stadium and I never thought we need to wait this long , Sorry guys it's very disappointing.

  • vagee on December 4, 2013, 5:50 GMT

    @venkat : You may be right in saying suresh is a better option than rangarajan. But may be selectors would ve thought he had lot of opportunities and also they would ve thought of giving a chance to a youngster instead. What am saying is, the selectors should give a long run when they give an opportunity to a youngster. especially spinners. and ashwin christ is already in the team and played all the 4 matches this season. they ve to surely play yo mahesh in the coming matches if he is fit.

  • balaji28 on December 3, 2013, 7:00 GMT

    @venkat I am referring to the karthikeyan who is playing for TI cycles and he even got a contract with csk and he is a slow unorthodox left arm bowler http://www.espncricinfo.com/india/content/player/624023.html

  • venkat_75r on December 3, 2013, 5:27 GMT

    @ Balaji - Not sure which Karthikeyan you are referring too because his profile in cricinfo shows him to be a left arm spinner http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/624023.html

  • balaji28 on December 3, 2013, 4:50 GMT

    I think two leading wicket takers in tamilnadu cricket league viz R Karthikeyan and prathiban where overlooked while aushik and malolan where given an opportunity instead.I heard rumours that R Karthikeyan have bowled six continuous unplayable yorkers to dhoni in csk trials but still R Karthikeyan is overlooked and he can't find a place in tamilnadu ranji squad.

  • on December 3, 2013, 4:38 GMT

    Bowling is very weak, while ashwin, vijay and co were went for national duties, the team's strength is to low to battle. Some good pacers from rest of the state should be picked, its the duty of TNCA to do. But instead of that, they are picking only those "particular" persons due to the political influence. Fielding is too sloppy, worst apart from bowling. Teamwork is not so good. These things are to be fixed right now and get a good bowling attack, then it can turn some matches.

  • on December 6, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    Mohammed Sunil aswin Balaji Kaushik tn bowling attack

  • on December 6, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    Tn has the worst bowling attack in domestic cricket.last time they scored 500+ twice and lost on both occasions and this year same problem.

  • venkat_75r on December 5, 2013, 13:57 GMT

    @Vagee - I understand your point but Malolan has been given lot of chances already. From what I have seen, he looks more defensive than aggressive. S Suresh Kumar is the leading wicket taker in the TNCA league I guess. Our fast bowling unit looks very poor. Unless Balaji finds his wicket taking form, we are not going to reach the quarters. They have bring some fast bowlers from the U19 team. Also, now that Abinav has come back to form, they have to go with 5 bowlers.

  • ashok16 on December 4, 2013, 18:56 GMT

    I think the Ranji team should stop playing home games in Chepauk. They should instead develop hard bouncy pitches in the dry lands of Dindigul and Tirunelveli in the deep South.

  • chennaitimes on December 4, 2013, 16:19 GMT

    Excellent article and I was telling the same to my friends that the mindset of TN is wrong, we need to go for win rather depending on first inning lead on batting track. I am tired of seeing same performance from TN? We need to accept that our bowling is weak including Ashwin and I don't see our bowlers can take 20 wickets in a match. Look at Mumbai, Delhi they go for sporting pitch when they need a result. Batting,I don't agree our batting is strong as well, look at the scoring rate its very poor that we should have scored another 100 run against saurashtra and that would have put pressure on them in chasing. Including Vijay I don't see our batting can do wonders in a sporting track .Its 26 years now that we won our last Ranji champion and I am one of the few who watched the game live in MAC stadium and I never thought we need to wait this long , Sorry guys it's very disappointing.

  • vagee on December 4, 2013, 5:50 GMT

    @venkat : You may be right in saying suresh is a better option than rangarajan. But may be selectors would ve thought he had lot of opportunities and also they would ve thought of giving a chance to a youngster instead. What am saying is, the selectors should give a long run when they give an opportunity to a youngster. especially spinners. and ashwin christ is already in the team and played all the 4 matches this season. they ve to surely play yo mahesh in the coming matches if he is fit.

  • balaji28 on December 3, 2013, 7:00 GMT

    @venkat I am referring to the karthikeyan who is playing for TI cycles and he even got a contract with csk and he is a slow unorthodox left arm bowler http://www.espncricinfo.com/india/content/player/624023.html

  • venkat_75r on December 3, 2013, 5:27 GMT

    @ Balaji - Not sure which Karthikeyan you are referring too because his profile in cricinfo shows him to be a left arm spinner http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/624023.html

  • balaji28 on December 3, 2013, 4:50 GMT

    I think two leading wicket takers in tamilnadu cricket league viz R Karthikeyan and prathiban where overlooked while aushik and malolan where given an opportunity instead.I heard rumours that R Karthikeyan have bowled six continuous unplayable yorkers to dhoni in csk trials but still R Karthikeyan is overlooked and he can't find a place in tamilnadu ranji squad.

  • on December 3, 2013, 4:38 GMT

    Bowling is very weak, while ashwin, vijay and co were went for national duties, the team's strength is to low to battle. Some good pacers from rest of the state should be picked, its the duty of TNCA to do. But instead of that, they are picking only those "particular" persons due to the political influence. Fielding is too sloppy, worst apart from bowling. Teamwork is not so good. These things are to be fixed right now and get a good bowling attack, then it can turn some matches.

  • krisapar on December 3, 2013, 3:40 GMT

    To an interested spectator, 3 things appear to plague TN cricket 1) The team management appears to over analyse. I can bet TN is the only Ranji team not to have played the same 11 in any two consecutive matches, even when no player who played in an earlier match was called upon for national duty. Every match will see between one to three changes, with espe4cially the bowling combination getting the "chop and change" approach. How do you expect players to settle down? Don't be surprised to see Indrajith getting dropped for the next game. 2) They have the habit of dropping crucial catches. 3) Of late, their pace of scoring is slow. While other teams amass 650+ scores if they bat for longer than 5 sessions, TN struggle to reach 550. This makes chasing that much easier if pitch is batsmen friendly. Also, while the batting strength is evident while batting first, the same cannot be said when they chase. One gets a feeling Others play as team. TN plays as 11 individuals.

    N Krishnamoorthy

  • on December 3, 2013, 2:28 GMT

    the problem lies with the selection of tn team. aushik srinivas has been touted as bishen bedi since age group cricket. still remember yusuf pathan slamming him in duleep trophy, malolan was dropped only to accommodate indrajith., till this things continue no one can save tn cricket.

  • A.Ak on December 2, 2013, 18:02 GMT

    Some times good bowlers dont get lots of wickets in a match, particularly quickies.

  • venkat_75r on December 2, 2013, 16:41 GMT

    @vageesan - Rangarajan hasn't done anything to retain his place in the side. Watched one of the matches he played. He looked very defensive, not much variation. TN made a big mistake in selection by taking an extra batsman in the place of a bowler. SS Kumar (S Suresh Kumar) who is one of the leading wicket takers in the TN league should be given chance. He is much better bowler compared to Rangarajan. Also, he is very handy with the bat. Also, the selectors should think about Aswin Christ.

  • Venkat_Gowrishankar on December 2, 2013, 15:29 GMT

    I dont understand one thing, when other Cricket associations like Andhra, Karnataka seem to be going a lot of places lwithin their state ike Hubli, Anantpur or Cuddapah, Why is TNCA not interested in spreading the game to second tier cities like Madurai, Coimbatore or Trichy. I doubt anybody in TNCA looks beyond Chennai and how would you expect a team from Tamil Nadu where the players are only from Chennai. It would make sense to break it into Chennai and Tamil Nadu just like Mumbai and Maharashtra or Hyderabad and AP or spread the game into other second tier cities. TNCA by keeping its eyes closes is missing on a lot of good talent from other parts of the state.

  • on December 2, 2013, 14:36 GMT

    It was a mistake to drop rangarajan for the saurashtra game. Currently he is the in form bowler in the squad. Even in this article it is pointed that he was the best bowler during the last season for TN. Result is not surprising when you have a weak bowling line up and from that you are dropping your best bowler. He is also handy with the bat. Hope TN selectors and management realize this.

    Another question is, if vijay can play this match, why cant ashwin ? rahane who is in the ODI squad also played. Pujara, rahane, vijay, umesh, zaheer, ishanth all got vital practice before the SA series. Yes ashwin deserved a much needed break after playing international matches continuously... but still he could have given this a try.

  • on December 2, 2013, 13:22 GMT

    My dear friends, Yomahesh is injured, thats why he is not playing this season!

  • ODI_BestFormOfCricket on December 2, 2013, 12:59 GMT

    overall quality of fast bowling in ranji trophy is poor for most of the teams.

  • on December 2, 2013, 12:53 GMT

    TN performing worst and need to strengthen the bowling dept. Lot of talent available all over Also the batting though good on paper are struggling to score even 3 runs per over especially against medicore teams like Services. look at Karnataka they are very +ve and are scoring at will. TN. Need to spot and nuture, prepare lively wickets. TN should organise matches at centres like Coimbatore, where there are good grounds. Look at Karnataka they are already doing it.

  • Naresh_m on December 2, 2013, 11:35 GMT

    It is with the selector of the TN team put some application to find out the solution for the failure in the bowling attack.

  • SridharKalyan on December 2, 2013, 11:07 GMT

    What a come down!!! To attribute the current status just to the lack of bowling strength is like problem itself. It is time that the TNCA re-looked at its development programmes and find out where they are going wrong, what is happenning to those specially talented youngsters earmarked for further focus, and so on. The state of the pitches in the city, especially those on which the II and III Division League matches are played need to be made more professional. Nothing short of a bottoms-up approach to revamp the existing set up would help in even attempting to reach the glorious levels of the past.

  • on December 2, 2013, 10:30 GMT

    where is Jesuraj and Yo Mahesh, are they injured?

  • Lagoskrishna on December 2, 2013, 10:19 GMT

    We should have a young captain. Let them give it to Abinav Mukund and bring back Yomahesh.

  • on December 2, 2013, 10:15 GMT

    The TNCA league has the reputation of being the most organized league in the country with top clubs having opportunities to play three day games on turf wickets. Surprising that such structure has not produced enough quality bowlers. We are not expecting fast bowlers to come, but not even decent spinners are coming out. May be, the trouble lies in the many coaching academies that stifle creativity.

    TN selectors have to do a lot more to tap talent from the districts. There are talks of moving Ranji matches out of Chennai from next season. This is a move that is long overdue. Karnataka have taken their Ranji matches out of Bangalore and they are getting good crowds in the centers outside of Bangalore.

  • Rambo_MW3 on December 2, 2013, 9:56 GMT

    Its really a disappointing performance by TN in the match against SAU. Its pretty clear that the bowling Dept need much more effort. Hope to see them Perform soon.

  • on December 2, 2013, 9:33 GMT

    TN like INDIAN team, strong batting but poor bowling line up

  • on December 2, 2013, 8:06 GMT

    TN lack of good fast bowlers...

  • on December 2, 2013, 8:02 GMT

    hope TN doesnt get relegated!

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • on December 2, 2013, 8:02 GMT

    hope TN doesnt get relegated!

  • on December 2, 2013, 8:06 GMT

    TN lack of good fast bowlers...

  • on December 2, 2013, 9:33 GMT

    TN like INDIAN team, strong batting but poor bowling line up

  • Rambo_MW3 on December 2, 2013, 9:56 GMT

    Its really a disappointing performance by TN in the match against SAU. Its pretty clear that the bowling Dept need much more effort. Hope to see them Perform soon.

  • on December 2, 2013, 10:15 GMT

    The TNCA league has the reputation of being the most organized league in the country with top clubs having opportunities to play three day games on turf wickets. Surprising that such structure has not produced enough quality bowlers. We are not expecting fast bowlers to come, but not even decent spinners are coming out. May be, the trouble lies in the many coaching academies that stifle creativity.

    TN selectors have to do a lot more to tap talent from the districts. There are talks of moving Ranji matches out of Chennai from next season. This is a move that is long overdue. Karnataka have taken their Ranji matches out of Bangalore and they are getting good crowds in the centers outside of Bangalore.

  • Lagoskrishna on December 2, 2013, 10:19 GMT

    We should have a young captain. Let them give it to Abinav Mukund and bring back Yomahesh.

  • on December 2, 2013, 10:30 GMT

    where is Jesuraj and Yo Mahesh, are they injured?

  • SridharKalyan on December 2, 2013, 11:07 GMT

    What a come down!!! To attribute the current status just to the lack of bowling strength is like problem itself. It is time that the TNCA re-looked at its development programmes and find out where they are going wrong, what is happenning to those specially talented youngsters earmarked for further focus, and so on. The state of the pitches in the city, especially those on which the II and III Division League matches are played need to be made more professional. Nothing short of a bottoms-up approach to revamp the existing set up would help in even attempting to reach the glorious levels of the past.

  • Naresh_m on December 2, 2013, 11:35 GMT

    It is with the selector of the TN team put some application to find out the solution for the failure in the bowling attack.

  • on December 2, 2013, 12:53 GMT

    TN performing worst and need to strengthen the bowling dept. Lot of talent available all over Also the batting though good on paper are struggling to score even 3 runs per over especially against medicore teams like Services. look at Karnataka they are very +ve and are scoring at will. TN. Need to spot and nuture, prepare lively wickets. TN should organise matches at centres like Coimbatore, where there are good grounds. Look at Karnataka they are already doing it.