: The TNCA first-division final, to be played here at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium from Thursday, features ambitions in conflict.
Globe Trotters is seeking to lift the Raja of Palayampatti Shield for the second straight year and become the third team, after Jolly Rovers and Vijay, to accomplish this feat in the last 12 seasons.
Vijay is looking to end a drought. The team hasn't won the championship since 2006-07 and is leaving nothing to chance. Rahul Dravid has been called up to further strengthen a formidable batting line-up!
Trotters knows the great man from the time the city's first-division league was a stomping ground — a young Dravid, in a performance he would repeat on grander stages, once rescued Vijay against it.
His presence gives Vijay the edge, but the side hasn't made the most of its riches this season. Its path to the final is indicative of this. Despite having on its roster, Abhinav Mukund, Dinesh Karthik, S. Badrinath, L. Balaji, and R. Ashwin, Test caps all, the side wouldn't have made the cut had UFCC not shocked Young Stars in the last round of the league.
In contrast to Vijay, Trotters progressed surely. It topped the league table with Rovers and India Pistons to ensure its presence in the final four.
But there was nothing to separate Trotters and Vijay in the semifinals. Anand Subramanian (178), Gnaneswara Rao (96), and Sunil Sam (five wickets) starred for Trotters against Pistons, while Badrinath (114) and Ashwin (78 and four wickets) drove Vijay against Rovers.
The course both semifinals took highlighted again the importance of the toss in three-day knockout matches.
Batting first is an advantage when the first-innings lead decides matters. Scoreboard pressure — the need to stay ahead of both the run-quotient (runs per wicket) and the run-rate (runs per over) — adds to the difficulty of the chasing team's task.
What's made this advantage near irreversible is the oppressive heat. A team that has spent the best part of two days chasing leather under a scorching sun is drained physically and mentally. Trotters under S. Sriram, or Vijay under R. Ashwin, may well overturn the toss' advantage in the final.
But it's still something the TNCA might want to consider. No doubt the advent of the IPL has made scheduling difficult. But in the interest of competitive fairness and, more importantly, the cricketers' (and umpires') well-being, the TNCA must look to either finish its league earlier or re-structure it so that the knockout matches aren't held in peak summer.