A formidable Tamil Nadu team with a ton of experience in its ranks will be ahead of an unannounced Baroda who cleared the controversies off the field to put on a promising grand final of the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament on Sunday. With the right mix of youth and experience under Dinesh Karthik, the Tamil Nadu side has barely looked into trouble since their group stage faces dominant victories in the hunt. Baroda, under their battle-hardened captain Kedar Devdhar, had won some one-sided matches, as well as a cliffhanger against Haryana in the quarterfinals where Vishnu Solanki fired a last-ball helicopter to win the match.
Baroda’s performance is more laudable after their first batsman Deepak Hooda stormed out following his disagreements with skipper Krunal Pandya, who also had to leave after his father’s death.
Tamil Nadu was also in trouble in the quarter finals against Himachal Pradesh, but a few big punches from Shahrukh Khan and a controlled knock from Baba Aparajith got them through. Veteran K B Arun Karthik then played a stunning 89 knockout against Rajasthan to take his state to the final. Opener N Jagadeesan (350 runs) tops the list of points scorers, while his opening partner C Hari Nishaanth has diminished form after a bright start. Skipper Karthik didn’t play a big knock, but was a stabilizing middle-order influence during tricky chases.
Shahrukh will be eager to impress talent scouts in what will basically be his last chance ahead of next month’s IPL auctions. Lanky left arm spinner R Sai Kishore (8 weeks so far) will have a big role to play on Sunday, along with leggie M Ashwin and Aparajith, who have been more than helpful with his rest breaks.
Medium pacers Mohammed Mohammed and R Sonu Yadav have played their part, but Tamil Nadu’s think tank could be tempted to drop a failed Aswin Crist, who came in for Sandeep Warrier and G Periyasamy in the playing XI For Baroda , a title triumph will mean their third national trophy in the shortest format. And to make that happen, burly opener Devdhar, the top runner for the team with 333 runs. will have to score a lot again.
Apart from Devdhar, Baroda will play on Solanki, who managed to commit one last heist against Haryana in the quarterfinals. However, he failed to make an impact in the semifinals and will happily complement his number.
The Baroda team leadership will be more than happy that Kartik Kakade is roaring back to shape and that gives the middle order a strong appearance. They can continue to open with Ninad Rathva so he can put pressure on Tamil Nadu bowlers, with Smit Patel taking the order.
Babashafi Pathan will also be another key cog in their wheel, with both the bat and ball Baroda’s impressive tempo duo of Atit Sheth and Lukman Meriwala, trying to get through early on. Meriwala took three wickets in the semi-final, but gave up some points towards the end, something he’d like to change.
However, the duo would have to deal with a formidable TN batting setup, which is why the challenge would be much greater. The role of the spin trio of left arm spinners Bhargav Bhatt, Ninad Rathva and offie Kartik Kakade, will also be vital in the middle overs and in determining the fate of the match.
On Sunday, Baroda can provide a huge surprise. The match starts at 7 p.m.
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