The rivalry is steeped in Indian domestic cricketing history. Picture the scene: Off spin wizard Erapalli Prasanna teasing braveheart T.E. Srinivasan with flight and deception. Or Srinivas Venkataraghavan challenging the wristy genius, Gundappa Viswanath, with classical off-spin underlined by precision.

Then there was the unpredictable but often destructive leg-spinner Bhagwat Chandrasekhar who captivated the audience with his astonishing variety of deliveries. If the turn did not get you, the bounce would. A big spinner of the ball, Chandra’s quicker deliveries zipped past the bat.

Those memories, indeed, would never fade.

Marquee face-off

The Tamil Nadu-Karnataka match was a marquee face-off of intensity, pride and expectations. Tests stars featured consistently in domestic cricket during those heady days and not make one or two token appearances as they do now. Crowds, then, thronged the arena.

Given the overall decline in the standing of the Ranji Trophy, the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka clash might have lost some of its sheen. Tamil Nadu coach V.B. Chandrasekhar argues the match is still high on the agenda to the cricketers from both sides. “It has always been a big game. There is a lot at stake and the players give their best. Karnataka has always had a strong bowling unit. I do not know where they get their bowlers from.”

Fresh pages will be added to the rivalry when Karnataka takes on last year’s finalist Tamil Nadu in a vital Ranji Trophy Group ‘B’ match at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium from Friday.

Forgettable start

The start to the fresh season has been forgettable for both sides. Karnataka conceded the lead to Baroda at Vadodara. And Tamil Nadu, baulked by rain at Cuttack, ended up with just a point against Odisha.

The surface for the match appears dry and seems to possess some red clay content. This pitch at Chepauk could increasingly assist spinners. The side that bats first has the opportunity to dictate the course of the match.

Tamil Nadu will be without off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and opener Murali Vijay, who are part of the Indian squad for the first Test against England at Ahmedabad.

Attacking bowler

Young off-spinner Malolan Rangarajan is likely to play. The young man is an attacking bowler, not averse to giving the ball air.

Opener Arun Karthick should come in for Vijay. The Tamil Nadu top-order will be tested by the international pairing of R. Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun. That could be a key phase of the match.

With the likes of Abhinav Mukund, S. Badrinath and Dinesh Karthik, Tamil Nadu has the batting strength.  Much focus will be on the host’s bowling. It would be interesting to see how leg-spinner M. Ashwin teams up with Malolan. Skipper Lakshmipathy Balaji, lion-hearted and crafty, carries with him much of the pace bowling hopes. J. Kaushik could lend him effective support.

Karnataka, as coach J. Arun Kumar conceded, was let down by its catching against Baroda. Top-order batsman Robin Uthappa impressed while Stuart Binny continued to make headway as a pace-bowling all-rounder. But then, Karnataka’s batting was seen in ordinary light at Vadodara during the chase.

At Chepauk, left-arm spinner K.P. Appanna could don a crucial role for Karnataka. Again, much would hinge on the spin of the coin.

The teams (from): Tamil Nadu: L. Balaji (capt.), A. Mukund, Arun Karthick, S. Badrinath, Dinesh Karthik, R. Prasanna, B. Aparajith, J. Kaushik, M. Ashwin, M. Rangarajan, M. Mohammad, Yo Mahesh, A. Srinivas, R. Rohith, K. Sri Vasudevadas.

Karnataka: R. Vinay Kumar (capt.), R. Uthappa, K.B. Pawan, G. Satish, M. Pandey, A. Verma, S. Binny, M.  Gautham (w.k.), S. Raju, A. Mithun, K.P. Appanna,  Kunal Kapoor, L. Rahul, R. More, S.K. Moinuddin.

Match starts at 9.30 a.m.

Keywords: Ranji Trophy

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