Vijay Hazare Trophy: All eyes on Tamil Nadu batsmen in quarter-final clash against Punjab
CHENNAI: It has been a perfect campaign for Tamil Nadu in the Vijay Hazare Trophy so far with nine wins out of nine in the group stage, but that will be of little relevance when they take on Punjab in the quarterfinals in Alur on Monday. As TN coach D Vasu pointed out to TOI a couple of days back, they will have to take the approach of starting from scratch all over again. While they have been in irrepressible form up until now, the arrival of the knockout stage means that there is no room for error from here on.
Barring R Ashwin, who is involved in the Test series against South Africa, TN have had all their star players available for a majority of the tournament, and they have made a notable difference to the side with their performances. The likes of skipper Dinesh Karthik, M Vijay, Vijay Shankar and Abhinav Mukund have stepped up to the plate at different times and infused a lot of firepower to the batting department. The rich vein of form of B Aparajith - who has accumulated 470 runs at an average of 78.33 - has also aided their cause. According to Aparajith, the key will lie in adjusting quickly to the conditions in Alur after playing all their group matches in Jaipur.
"The pitches in Jaipur were true and good to bat on. We are expecting the conditions in Alur to be slightly different. But we don't want to go into the game with preconceived notions. We will have to assess the conditions in the first few overs and adjust accordingly," Aparajith told TOI on match eve.
Whatever the nature of the pitch against Punjab on Monday, the TN batsmen will once again have to come to the fore. Their opponents, after all, have reached the quarters largely on the basis of their bowling strength. Pacers Siddarth Kaul and Sandeep Sharma have picked up 16 wickets each while left-arm spinner Karan Kaila and leggie Mayank Markande have 13 and 11 wickets respectively.
As far as the Punjab batting department is concerned, it is light on firepower. They do have the experience of Gurkeerat Singh and Mandeep Singh in their ranks, but the two of them are yet to find form in this tournament. In this regard, the men from the north dearly miss the presence of young Shubman Gill, who would have provided an X factor to the side. The last time these two sides met, in a Ranji Trophy fixture last year, it was Gill who grabbed the limelight with an innings of 268. On Monday, though, TN will rest easy in the knowledge that Gill is with the Indian team in Ranchi for the third Test.