Chennai: With a balanced squad and the benefit of playing at home, Tamil Nadu would look to outwit defending champions Rajasthan in the five-day Ranji Trophy final starting here on Thursday.
Making their 11th attempt to win the coveted title for only the third time, Tamil Nadu will bank on home advantage to ensure that their consistent show this season ends on a high.
Tamil Nadu would be playing their third final in the past 10 seasons and would aim to get over the habit of stumbling in the summit clash after doing all the hard work in the league stages.
The slow pace and low bounce of the Chepauk pitch would be of some assistance to the hosts but Rajasthan's pace battery would also be excited at the sight of it.
The defending champions surprised many by winning the title last season and are serious contenders to retain the trophy under Hrishikesh Kanitkar's leadership.
"It is amazing. I am out of words. Two years ago we were in the bottom of the Plate League and now we are in our second straight final," Rajasthan coach Amit Asawa has stated.
Interestingly, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan had clashed in the semi-finals last season and the hosts would be aiming for revenge this time around.
"My men are right on the track," said Tamil Nadu captain Laxmipathy Balaji.
Besides topping Group-B with 20 points, Tamil Nadu's semi-final win over 39-time champions Mumbai exemplified their consistency this year.
Tamil Nadu's steady performance in the league phase is in stark contrast to Rajasthan dropping points in their first five matches and then managing to avoid elimination only because of other teams' failure.
But to their credit, Rajasthan have shown character in drawing a couple of games after following-on during the league stage.
On paper, Tamil Nadu features players who have gone on to represent India as well. Abhinav Mukund, Murali Vijay, Subramaniam Badrinath and Dinesh Karthik have made a name for themselves in India colours.
Balaji too has led by example and his incisive opening spell in the semi-final against Mumbai had helped the hosts make the final grade.
"This season has been phenomenal as we had to fight for runs and wickets in almost each of the matches. We have several India players and middle-order batsmen," Balaji said.
"We have a strong and balanced bowling attack and supported by our batsmen, we will play to our potential to clinch the trophy at home. Rajasthan is a capable side but we will approach it like any other match," he added.
Tamil Nadu would be looking towards its in-form top order batsmen to pile up the runs.
The balance in their bowling attack can be be assessed by the fact that seamers Jagannathan Kaushik (24), Lakshmipathy Balaji (23) and Vijaykumar Yo Mahesh (20), and spinner Aushik Srinivas (20) have had equal share of success in the run up to the final.
As for Rajasthan, their middle-order batsman Robin Bist amassed 841 runs in eight matches with four centuries but his poor form in their last two matches is a worry for Kanitkar.
Seamers Pankaj Singh and Rituraj Singh have claimed 32 and 22 wickets respectively, assisting the team greatly in their journey thus far.
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