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TUTI Patriots have been the most consistent side of TNPL 2016 Photo Courtesy: TNPL

We have finally reached the ultimate stage of the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) 2016. After a month of dazzling cricket, we have two finalists in Albert TUTI Patriots and Chepauk Super Gillies, who will battle to lift the coveted trophy of this T20 spectacle, at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai. We are back to where it all started, as these two teams played in the tournament opener, setting it on fire. Patriots edged past Chepauk by 45 runs. However, both teams have had topsy-turvy journey since then. They had to encounter roughest of times to reach the grand finale.

Patriots, however, found momentum in the last half of the league. They, as a matter of fact, emerged triumphant in four consecutive matches, courtesy their all-round performance. Be it batting, bowling or fielding, they have been in a rampaging form in all the departments. In short, they have all the bases covered. Meanwhile, captain Lakshmipathy Balaji has been happy with his team’s performance. In an interview with tnca.cricket, he shared his experience with Team India, more importantly the famous tour of Pakistan in 2003-04. “Since it was a historic series, it was made even more special. To be honest, I was embarrassed because I was the most famous player on that tour! There were so many big names, who looked after me like elder brothers, they were always there for me, and that tour helped me to get recognition. But, before that, we went to Australia for a three-month tour and had a very good understanding (as a team).”

“I also went out a couple of times with Anil (Kumble) Bhai and Zaheer (Khan). Most of the cricketers bonded well and soon came the back-to-back tour of Pakistan. We went on to win the series, it was a proud moment for me, as I contributed with the bat as well!” Also read: BCCI begins hunt for players to participate in Vinoo Mankad Tournament

Balaji represented India in 30 One-Day Internationals (ODIs), taking 34 wickets in 39.52. He added, “I had a very reasonable career and in a span of 16 years I can’t single out one big performance. But, the ones against Pakistan and Delhi, I would rate very highly. The first was against Pakistan in Australia, before an ODI against Australia at Adelaide, while the other was in the Ranji Trophy semifinal against Delhi. It was the strongest Delhi team as they had three to four Test players like Viru (Virender Sehwag), (Gautam) Gambhir etc. I remember that spell because it gave me the confidence to go further in my career.”

Over the years, Balaja played under various captains. “I played under Sourav (Ganguly) first and he was a sensational captain. MS (Dhoni) and I have always maintained that he is a great cricketer with a very good understanding of leadership. I have enjoyed playing under both these players. I have also played under Gauti (Gambhir) and he was also an inspirational captain. These are the three captains that I have enjoyed playing with. There are other captains in the state team as well, I have played under Robin (Singh) and that was during my first year of first-class cricket. He was like my bigger brother. I also have played under very good students of the game and I am what I am because of their guidance.”

All the same, that’s what TNPL has been about: senior members inculcating their experience with the youth. And Balaji’s presence in the dressing room has done world of good to his team’s confidence. Also read: Gambhir lashes out at Delhi Government for lack of awareness towards local issues

Meanwhile, with stalwarts such as Dinesh Karthik and Abhinav Mukund, the team looks even more stronger. In addition, with players such as Kaushik Gandhi and Washington Sundar in red-hot form, the opposition will have tough time getting the better of the Patriots.

“We believe in playing to our potential, giving it our best shot. We bowled well throughout the tournament. Our batting has also been bolstered by the return of Dinesh Karthik and Abhinav Mukund. We beat Chepauk when we first played them in Chennai, but we didn’t have a good game against Lyca at the same venue. But, we will be ready. We have our plans in place,” said Washington.

Most commendable of has been their bowling performance. They often manage to restrict the opponent below 150. Along with Balaji, bowlers such as Aushik Srinivas, Aswin Crist and Ganesh Moorthi. Also read: Gautam Gambhir opens up on MS Dhoni’s biopic

On the other hand, Chepauk did not start the campaign on a winning note. All the same, they excelled at crucial juncture, not succumbing to pressure. Openers Thalaivan Sargunam and K Gopinath especially have been in thick of the things. Meanwhile, R Sathish play a handy cameo in the death overs, adding vital runs towards the end.

Their bowling unit is a perfect blend of youth and experience. While Sai Kishore keeps a lid on the runs in the mandatory powerplay, spinner R Alexander and Ashwath Mukunthan provide crucial breakthroughs in the middle overs. Amidst all this, Anthony Dhas has been consistently providing the much-needed impetus.

Teams:

Chepauk Super Gillies: Arun Kumar, Rajagopal Sathish (c), Antony Dhas, Gopinath (wk), Joel Joseph, Yo Mahesh, Dakshinamoorthy Kumaran, Sathiamoorty Saravanan, Thalaivan Sargunam, R Alexander, Aditya Barooah, Jothimani Gowjith Subhash, S Karthik, Ashwath Mukumthan, Baskaran Rahul, Rajeel Abdul Rahman, Ravisrinivasan Sai Kishore, Uthirasamy Sasidev, V Shibi Jawahar, SI Vasudevan, PS Nirmal Kumar

TUTI Patriots: Dinesh Karthik (c & wk), Umashankar Sushil, Siddarth Ahuja, Akash Sumra, Subramanian Anand, Aswin Crist, V Athisayaraj Davidson, Aushik Srinivas, Lakshmipathy Balaji, M Ganesh Moorthi, Kaushik Gandhi, V Lakshman, Maaruthi Raghav, Abhinav Mukund, SP Nathan, G Nicul Anand, R Sathyanarayan, R Vishaal, Washington Sundar