In a new season and in a new format, last year’s runner-up and two-time champion Tamil Nadu will aim for a winning start to its 2012-13 campaign in the Ranji Trophy against the host Odisha starting at the DRIEMS ground, hear here from Friday.

The nine-time runner-up Tamil Nadu has been one of the top domestic sides in the premier tournament and the Lakshmipathy Balaji-led side will hope to make the hectic three-month long tournament a memorable one.

TN has enough talent and depth, youth and experience to make it count this season. The team’s rise in fortunes in recent years can be directly attributed to the competitive league the boys play in Chennai.

Odisha, on the other hand, will start as an underdog. Its main aim, obviously, will be to deny TN an outright victory in the season opener and the team has rightly chosen this ground where the Odisha boys have been practicing for quite some time now.

After a not-so-impressive season last year, Odisha began the preparations very early this year by first retaining Debasis Mohanty as head coach and finalised the probables to give the time for the support staff to work on the boys. That showed results as a couple of Odisha players did well in East Zone’s Duleep Trophy triumph.

Yet, how much of an impact Odisha can make against a well-drilled side like TN will only be known as the match progresses. It is more or less final tha tthe team will go into the match with seven batsmen and four bowlers.

Openers Sandeep Mulia and Govind Poddar have been brought into the side after good performances for Odisha ‘A’ against Delhi and the two are likely to be in the playing XI.

Skipper Natraj Behera, Biplab Samantray, Rakesh Mohanty, wicketkeeper-batsman Haladhar Das and the diminutive Abhilash Mallick should form the batting order while Basant Mohanty, Alok Mangaraj and slow left-armer Dhiraj Singh are likely to be the three bowlers.

The toss up for the fourth seamer will be between Deepak Behera and Alok Sahoo.

Abhinav Mukund and Murali Vijay, who played for India ‘A’ at Mumbai, are expected to open the batting. It is likely that Balaji will go into the match with five batsmen and five bowlers to obtain a decisive result against one of the minnows of the group B.

Baba Aparajith, Arun Karthik, S. Badrinath, R. Prasanna and K.S. Vasudevadas will vie for two slots with Dinesh Karthik walking into the XI as a wicketkeeper. Three pacers and two spinners should work well for TN as Balaji, V. Yomahesh and J. Kaushik should form the pace attack.

R. Ashwin and young Aushik Srinivas could be the two spinners.

The teams (from): Odisha: Natraj Behera (captain), Sandeep Mulia, Govind Poddar, Biplab Samantray, Rakesh Mohanty, Haladhar Das (wk), Abhilash Mallick, Basant Mohanty, Alok Mangaraj, Deepak Behera, Alok Chandra Sahoo, Dhiraj Singh, Paresh Patel, Subhrajit Sahoo and Anil Buda.

Tamil Nadu: L. Balaji (captain), A. Mukund, M. Vijay, B. Aparajith, K.B. Arun Karthik, S. Badrinath, D. Karthik, R. Prasanna, K.S. Vasudevadas, V. Yomahesh, R. Ashwin, J. Kaushik, Aushik Srinivas, M. Ashwin, M.S. Mohammed and R.K. Rohith.

Umpires: P.G. Pathak (Mumbai) and N. Menon (Indore); Match Referee: Amit Sharma (Haryana).

More In: Cricket | Sport