Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXIII No. 14, November 1-15, 2023
It’s 35 years since Tamil Nadu last won the premier national competition and predictably enough it is everyone’s fond wish that it is time the state team inscribes its name on the trophy again. The calls have become more fervent with each passing year and it came as no surprise to see both the key speakers at the annual day function of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association on September 23 urging the players to do their best and regain the trophy.
Kris Srikkanth, former Indian captain and N Srinivasan former BCCI chief urged the players to perform with “dedication, determination and discipline” and end Tamil Nadu’s barren run in the Ranji Trophy. They underscored the point that the TNCA senior division league was one of the best in the country, that the association had extended it to four playing days and that it had revived the Buchi Babu tournament.
They pointed out that the Ranji Trophy is the pinnacle and every player should strive hard so that the team could win back the trophy. Srinivasan in fact pointed out that if Vidarbha who took the trophy twice running in 2017-18 and 2018-19 could win it why can’t Tamil Nadu. He also expressed the hope that under the new coach Sulakshan Kulkarni Tamil Nadu would regain the trophy.
Both Srikkanth and Srinivasan echoed the views of every Tamil Nadu cricket fan. Just two title triumphs in 88 years of the Ranji Trophy is Tamil Nadu’s abysmal record. Every year at the start of the season anyone and everyone associated with cricket in the state has this cherished view that perhaps this will be Tamil Nadu’s year only to see the campaign grind to an ignominious halt a couple of months later. What is even more galling is the fact that Tamil Nadu has performed admirably in limited overs cricket winning both the Vijay Hazare and Mushtaq Ali trophy. But the big prize continues to elude it. Tamil Nadu has taken part in the competition since the inaugural year in 1934-35, has won the Ranji Trophy for the first time in 1954-55 defeating Holkar at Indore and it took them another 33 years for their next triumph when they outplayed Railways by an innings in the final at the MAC stadium in March 1988.
The unwanted tag of under achievers has stayed with Tamil Nadu. Neighbouring state Karnataka has won the Ranji Trophy eight times next only to Mumbai’s runaway record tally of 41. One is convinced that the woeful record does not do justice to the talent available or the facilities enjoyed by the players. Year after year they have flattered only to deceive. Particularly disheartening is the fact that they have faltered at the final hurdle no less than ten times. Yes, that’s the number of title clashes they have lost, four of them since the start of the new millennium.
There is unanimous agreement that that the infrastructure and the amenities provided to the players from the state is first rate. The senior division league is perhaps the best in the country, camps are conducted at various levels, the coaching is systematic, several tournaments are organized and the cricketers can never complain about money or job opportunities especially in recent times. But somehow the returns have not been in keeping with the investments.
Are then the players to be blamed for not rising to the occasion in spite of an encouraging scenario? To a large extent this is true for they have failed to deliver when it matters most. If they have the talent they lack the technique in a few cases but more importantly they have lacked the temperament. And while in recent years there has been improvement in this aspect – reflected by the larger representation by players from the state in the national squad – there is still much to be done.
Is there then a lack of killer instinct in the players? This has to be the case for having got rid of a vital mental block there is no reason why they should not prevail against any opposition. The mental block refers to their awful record against Mumbai. There was a time when Tamil Nadu’s record against the crowned champions was played 13, lost 13. But since the breakthrough victory in the quarterfinal at Tirunelveli in 1995-96 Tamil Nadu has got the better of Mumbai on a couple of more occasions. Self-belief is important in any sport and the Tamil Nadu players must believe in themselves that they have what it takes to be champions and regain the trophy which they won most unexpectedly in 1987-88.
For long in the 60s, 70s and 80s the joke that did the rounds was that the only way Tamil Nadu could win the Ranji Trophy was by stealing it. Now the joke is doing the rounds again. After all it is 35 years since the second triumph. Tamil Nadu has always been one of the serious contenders for the trophy but finishing runner-up does their cause no good. As the adage goes “second best is still a loser”.