Tamil Nadu, seeking their third Ranji Trophy title after a lapse of 23 years, could not have asked for a better draw in the Elite Group as they play six of their seven league matches on home turf, beginning with a game against Assam at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here Monday.
Last season, Tamil Nadu cruised through their group matches but lost to Delhi on first innings lead in the knock-out stage and their premature exit only underlined their vulnerability.
However, even before the team could look at the pitch, the eyes were turned heavenwards with the prospects of rains very much on the cards as the North-East monsoon set in a couple of days back. Although Sunday was balmy and dry, the forecast is for rains next week and in this period, when it rains, it pours.
On paper, Tamil Nadu appear the stronger of the two teams with an array of attacking batsmen and fairly strong bowling attack that will be in the capable hands of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and seamers Lakshmipathy Balaji, Chandrasekar Ganapathy and Yo Mahesh. Of interest will be the performance of schoolboy left-arm spinner Aushik (rpt Aushik) Srinivas although it remains to be seen whether he will make it to the playing eleven.
Skipper and Test wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik opined that winning matches hinged on dominating each of the sessions, but the rain gods can trip even the best laid plans.
“Rains permitting and if the players perform to their potential, we can have a good start to the season with an outright win,” Karthik said.
Tamil Nadu will be without opener Murali Vijay who will be away for the home Test series against New Zealand commencing this week.
Assam, making their debut in the Elite Group, have fortified their line-up by including guest players in Amol Mazumdar, the former Mumbai star who will also be leading the team, Dheeraj Jadhav and Sridharan Sriram, a former Tamil Nadu player.
The Assam bowlers will have a task on their hands trying to contain the Tamil Nadu batsmen, most of whom are in good form with former captain Subramaniam Badrinath, Abhinav Mukund, Anirudha Srikkanth, Arun Karthik and Dinesh Karthik forming the core group.
Despite a favourable draw, Tamil Nadu are hoping that their matches would not be affected by rains since the winter monsoon is active over the region.