Dinesh Karthik, who has to his name a man-of-the-match award in his only Twenty20 international, will lead Tamil Nadu against Punjab
It's a format devised for the viewing public to throng to the ground and
have a blast or, for those who choose not to, to kick back in their
living rooms, relax and enjoy a couple of hours of cricketing excitement
distilled to its purest. And yet, neither is likely to happen when Tamil
Nadu take on Punjab in the final of India's inaugural domestic Twenty20
championship. The match will not be on television screens, and so far the
crowds have stayed far away from the action. Yet, for the two teams
involved, the game promises to be a novel experience.
Woorkheri Raman, the former Indian left-hand batsman and currently coach
of the Tamil Nadu team, was sure that the format would, in time to come,
attract audiences and capture the public's imagination. "It will be a format that will gain popularity," he told Cricinfo on the eve of the final. "Twenty20 cricket is like watching a James Bond movie. While you're watching it it's full-on excitement. But when you
leave, you don't take anything home with you."
Raman, a stylish
left-hander whose penchant for Bond films is well known among his friends,
is thought to be a shrewd tactician, although Tamil Nadu did not have the
best time of it this season in Ranji Trophy cricket.
Raman believed that a victory in this Twenty20 Championship would do his
young team a world of good. While acknowledging it would not erase the memories
of a disappointing first-class campaign, he said, "A win here will give
the youngsters belief that they can perform in something that is outside
of what is familiar to them. In some ways they probably don't know yet
what they are capable of doing."
"It could enhance the self-belief of some of the individuals and the young team as a unit. Winning against a strong team, when there is class in the opposition will give
these youngsters the belief that they can do it in other forms of the
Tamil Nadu will be led, in the absence of the indisposed S Badrinath, by Dinesh Karthik, who has to his name a man-of-the-match award in his only Twenty20 international. They have some serious hitters in their ranks, notable Anirudha
Srikkanth, son of former India dasher Krish Srikkanth, S Vidyut, the son
of V Sivaramakrishnan, an attacking and eminently watchable left-handed
bat in his time, and D Devendra. But they will be up against a determined
opposition in Punjab.
Yuvraj Singh and Dinesh Mongia have hit form at just the right time, and
both will want to celebrate selection to the national team with powerful
knocks. Conversely, Harbhajan Singh, who has been left out of the team for
the tour of Bangladesh, would like nothing more than to embarrass the
selectors by coming up with a performance of note.
"We have been playing good cricket all tournament. Our key batsmen have
hit form and this is a big advantage to us. The final is a big game for
us, and we hope we can cap a good tournament with a strong
performance," Pankaj Dharmani, captain of the Punjab team, said. While
some cricketers have complained, and justifiably so, in private at least,
about the joylessness of playing in front of empty stands, Dharmani
refused to be drawn out. "It is for the organisers to look into the crowd
aspect. For us, as players, we're all geared up and looking forward to the
final. Crowd or no crowd has made little difference to us."
In all, the match promises to be an important one, even if not a high
point in the cricket calendar. It's the first domestic Twenty20 final, and
bragging rights are up for grabs. If, by chance, on a Saturday evening,
people in South Mumbai take the opportunity to head to the ground - it's
free entry - the game might just get the atmosphere it deserves, and
this could lift the players into doing something special.
Anand Vasu is associate editor of Cricinfo