“We will have to go for broke,” said Tamil Nadu coach W.V. Raman. His Bengal counterpart Ashok Malhotra replied, “If they aim for six points, then we have a chance to get six too.”
On 18 points each from seven games, Tamil Nadu and Bengal find themselves in a must-win situation ahead of their last Group B match at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Monday. They would also have to hope that Baroda, on 20, does not score an outright win over Rajasthan in Jaipur. At stake is a quarterfinal place.
A dry pitch with red soil is a clear indicator that the surface will encourage spin. But then, the Tamil Nadu spinners were unable to exploit a surface that assisted spin in the last game at Chepauk, against Rajasthan.
Left-arm spinners Aushik Srinivas and Rahil Shah bowled a middle-and-leg line to left-handers from round the wicket when there was a rough outside the southpaw’s off-stump to exploit with a short-leg and a leg-slip in place. Consequently, the duo was worked away for runs on the leg-side.
It came as no surprise then that former Tamil Nadu all-rounder D. Vasu, who sent down tidy left-arm spin in his days, spent considerable time ahead of this match with Aushik and Rahil on bowling the right line and making use of the rough. Of course, off-spinner Malolan Rangarajan should have bowled better too at the southpaws. Malolan has promise but needs to settle into an ideal bowling rhythm where control rules.
Skipper L. Balaji has bowled with heart but catches have to be held. The side’s batting, with the left-handed R. Prasanna (418 runs at 69.66) being a worthy exception, has hardly been consistent either. Runs need to be scored when the team needs them.
Tamil Nadu could make a change with B. Indrajith coming in for opener K.B. Arun Karthick. If this happens, B. Aparajith will open the innings with Abhinav Mukund. Indrajith, a middle-order bat, can bowl handy leg-spin. Bengal’s batting is wobbly and much would depend on skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla. Skipper Shukla (445 at 63.57) has made runs in crisis situations.
The influential Ashok Dinda — he has 29 wickets this season — will open the attack with Shukla. Like Tamil Nadu, Bengal will field three specialist spinners. Off-spinner Sourasish Lahiri leads the spin pack.
With both sides going for a win, there should hardly be a dull moment in the match.
The teams (from): Tamil Nadu: L. Balaji (captain), Abhinav Mukund, B. Aparajith, S. Badrinath, D. Karthik, R. Prasanna, B. Indrajith, Vijay Shankar, Malolan Rangarajan, R. Shah, Aushik Srinivas, K.B. Arun Karthick. Coach: W.V. Raman.
Bengal: L.R. Shukla (captain), Gitimoy Basu, Sourasish Lahiri, A. Eashwaran, Jitendra Shah, Koushik Ghosh, Writtick Chatterjee, Subhomoy Das, Ashok Dinda, Sudip Chatterjee, Irish Saxena, Arnab Nandy. Coach: Ashok Malhotra.
Play starts at 9.30 a.m.