Vijay Hazare Trophy: Tamil Nadu look to start from scratch in knockouts
CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu might have won all their nine group matches en route to qualifying for the knockout stages of the Vijay Hazare Trophy but coach D Vasu feels that the team will be starting from scratch when they take on Punjab in the quarterfinals in Alur on Monday.
After completing their group engagements, the Tamil Nadu team landed in Bengaluru on Thursday and will have a couple of days' rest before resuming practice on Saturday. Vasu said that Alur's conditions will be different from that of Jaipur. "It's raining here. The pitches will be different from those on which we played in Jaipur. So we cannot dwell on the past. We have to start from scratch and we aren't taking Punjab lightly. The good news is that all the boys are in form and good shape. So we will be taking a lot of confidence into the game," Vasu told TOI from Bengaluru on Thursday.
Punjab, too, will be buoyed by their efforts after having qualified from a tough group, which included the likes of Delhi, UP, Vidarbha and Baroda. The talking point about the team has been the tremendous bowling performances dished out by pacers Sandeep Sharma, Siddarth Kaul (both have taken 16 wickets each), left-arm spinner Karan Kalia (13 wkts) and leggie Mayank Markande (11 wkts).
No wonder then that the contest will be between Tamil Nadu's in-form batsmen and Punjab bowlers. "What has worked for us is that all the batsmen have contributed. It's not that we are riding on the scores of only a few batsmen. Even when we lost a few quick wickets and the chips were down, the middle-order shouldered responsibility and took us past the finish line. However, the batsmen will be aware that these are the knockouts and every mistake will count. But it won't be only about our batting and their bowling. They don't have a star in the batting line-up and anyone can perform on any given day. So our bowlers, who have performed as a unit so far, also need to rise to the occasion," Vasu said.
The 51-year-old said that strong mental character helped TN look invincible at the group stage. "We have been working on the mental aspects and given the players freedom to express themselves. They have taken their own decisions at crucial junctures of the games and those moves have paid off. We have complete trust in the players' abilities. But it doesn't mean that there isn't any room for improvement. The seniors have been taking charge and they have steered the team ahead. Hopefully, they will again come to the party in the knockouts," Vasu said.