It could be a tempting prospect to allegorise the gloomy skies on Thursday to the Tamil Nadu team’s state of mind. But, out there, during the practice session at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, things appeared quite the opposite.

While the players went through the drills with intent ahead of their Ranji Trophy Group B clash with Baroda on Friday, the fun-element wasn’t entirely absent. Dinesh Karthik was seen enjoying a ride on a bike even as Vijay Shankar, B. Aparajith, and B. Indrajith were sharing a laugh during a photo shoot.

However, there’s bound to be awareness that at the end of four matches — the halfway mark — Tamil Nadu has a meagre eight points. More tellingly, the side has cobbled up only three outright victories in the last three Ranji seasons. The infirmity of the bowling flank has been identified as an obvious reason.

Further evidence to buttress the contention came in the game against Saurashtra when Tamil Nadu, despite scoring 565, failed to secure the first-innings honours. It is a disturbing déjà vu of what happened against Karnataka here last season.

Coach W.V. Raman, while suggesting there might be a few changes to the line-up, refused to be overly critical. “You have to be good over four days and not just in patches.”

Raman, however, would be heartened by his batsmen’s form, particularly Aparajith (462), S. Badrinath (434), Abhinav Mukund (342), and R. Prasanna (219).

Baroda, meanwhile, hasn’t had a great run and, with seven points, is third from bottom. After losing two matches outright, Baroda won its previous encounter against Madhya Pradesh. Skipper Yusuf Pathan found form with a hundred. In the bowling department, left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt, with 15 wickets, has been Yusuf’s go-to man.

Seamer Munaf Patel isn’t travelling with the team having been rested for this match.

The dry, red soil-heavy wicket will be the same as the one against Saurashtra, but is likely to be friendlier to the spinners.

The teams (from):

Tamil Nadu: L. Balaji (captain), S. Badrinath (vice-captain), Abhinav Mukund, B. Aparajith, R. Prasanna, Dinesh Karthik (w/k), K.B. Arun Karthick, B. Indrajith, Vijay Shankar, Malolan Rangarajan, R. Aushik Srinivas, J. Kaushik, Rahil S. Shah, M. Mohammed;

Coach: W.V. Raman.

Baroda: Yusuf Pathan (captain), Aditya Waghmode (vice-captain), Pinal Shah (w/k), Ketan Panchal, Kedar Devdhar, Saurabh Wakaskar, Ketul Patel, Abhimanyu Chauhan, Dhiren Mistry, Utkarsh Patel, Murtuja Vahora, Gagandeep Singh Natt, Babasafi Khan Pathan, Hardik Pandya, Bhargav Bhatt;

Coach: Sanath Kumar.

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