Vijay Shankar and B Aparajith have fond recollections of the TNCA first division league final in June 2012. Not only did they finish on the winning side, Vijay CC, but they also got to play alongside Rahul Dravid, who was called up to lend more muscle to an already formidable batting unit three months after his retirement from international cricket.
Both youngsters hung on to every word Dravid had to offer then. Three years on, Aparajith and Vijay Shankar are just as excited about the prospect of interacting with Dravid, who is now coach of the India A side. Dravid's first assignment will be the two four-day games against Australia A in Chennai later this month, and the two Tamil Nadu players are part of the 15-man India A squad.
Aparajith said he was eager to hear Dravid's appraisal of his game so far. "I still don't know what to expect though," Aparajith told ESPNcricinfo. "I am going to be open and listen to what he has got to say. Anything small from him is going to be a big thing for me."
Aparajith, however, felt there might not be enough time to run the technical nitty-gritty of his batting by Dravid. "It's going to be match-based, so I am not sure how much (any conversation on) technical correction is possible. Maybe close to the tournament, I will discuss with him things that are on the top of my head at that point. I am not predetermining anything now."
Shankar, along with Aparajith, has established himself as a player of considerable potential recently. He was a key part of a young Tamil Nadu side that made the Ranji Trophy final last season. Shankar racked up 577 runs at an average of 57.70, including scores of 111, 82 and 91 in the quarter-final and semi-final.
Evidently elated at his selection, he is looking forward to take in Dravid's input on every aspect of the game. "I didn't know how to react. It's a very big thing," Shankar said of his selection.
"Last time when I met him (Dravid), I was asking him about converting starts. I would just love to work with him. Whenever we go there and practice I am sure he's going to give some input and I am just keen on noting it down. I hope there will be enough practice sessions so that he will have time to see how we are batting."
Both Shankar and Aparajith were happy that the matches were played in their hometown, but refused to attribute too much importance to it.
In contrast to Shankar, Aparajith had a lean run in the Ranji Trophy, with his 553 runs coming at an average of 29.10. Aparajith admitted there wasn't a specific pattern to his game last year, but that he had put in "extra hard work" to sort out what he regarded as problem areas.
"It's a fresh start for us, a season opener of sorts," Aparajith said. "I have analysed what I need to do. There is no specific area (of improvement). The reason why I failed last season could be because of a thought-process mistake. Nothing to do with my skill alone, [except] maybe in one or two games.
"Every game I need to set pattern for long innings. Last season, I didn't find the pattern or rhythm. Once I make it a habit, I will be more consistent."
Shankar, for his part, spoke about taking his batting to the next level. "I have been batting well in the recent past. But whenever I get a start, I get out for 80 or 90," he said.
"I just want to make sure when I get a start, I want to make it really big. Definitely, I look at it (the selection) as one more step towards the senior team. Whenever we go out and play, we put ourselves under some pressure. But last year, I just wanted to enjoy myself. Obviously pressure is going to be there, but I look at this series as an opportunity to gain enjoyment and good experience."