Tamil Nadu's stoic vs Himachal's pluck to define Vijay Hazare Final

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25 Dec 2021 | 01:18 PM
authorBastab K Parida

Tamil Nadu's stoic vs Himachal's pluck to define Vijay Hazare Final

Himachal Pradesh might not claim to be one of the domestic powerhouses but they have always done the right thing in showing up

There was a moment in the game between Himachal Pradesh and Services that Rishi Dhawan suddenly paused for a while and checked his bat. It was a perfect six. Landed on the good length, rose slightly as it would have on a typical sub-continent wicket, and touched the sweet spot of the bat to be out of the long-on fence. 

Pulkit Narang was surprised too, not because he was hit out of the ground, but also because of the simple chorus that Dhawan was able to pull off in the middle of a scorching spell. For many, not acquainted with the batting progress of the Himachal talisman, it was a watershed moment. But the larger narrative was set in motion way before the North Indian side took strides since the start of the 2021-22 season of the Vijay Hazare Trophy.

Coming to the Jaipur semi-final against Services, Dhawan had already scored 332 runs in six games. With opener Prashant Chopra already adding 362 of his own by then, it was down to other performers to deliver but the game eventually was survived by two of Himachal’s finest, yet again. Chopra scored his fifth consecutive half-century and Dhawan hit his fifth half-century of the season to ensure Himachal make history and reach their first-ever Vijay Hazare Trophy final.

Waiting for them in the wings are Tamil Nadu - the finest white-ball unit in the country and possibly the most complete as well. Tamil Nadu have taken giant strides under Dinesh Karthik and Vijay Shankar in the last half a decade to establish a monopoly of their own. It is, however, the systematic usage and careful plotting that has helped Tamil Nadu be what they have become - a pipeline of sorts for the future of Indian cricket.

Take Washington Sundar’s case for example. The all-rounder has been an integral part of the Indian set-up for close to four years now and that experience showed in his batting when his innings lower down the order became a huge asset for Tamil Nadu to romp home eventually. The likes of Baba Indrajith and Baba Aparajith are way too experienced in similar situations to navigate if Rishi Dhawan’s men throw some challenges at them.

For Himachal, the question of success is manifold. Himachal Pradesh might not claim to be one of the domestic powerhouses but they have always done the right thing in showing up. While Chopra and Dhawan’s run-scoring spree tells the story with nth detail, the bowling unit has shown the spunk at the most crucial juncture to ensure the four-time Champions are on their toes ahead of the final date.

Take Mayank Dagar for example. Six years ago, just after India’s 2016 U-19 campaign, I had sat down with Mayank Dagar for a profile. He was candid and confident - a typical modern-day swagger combined with a grace that made me so curious about his career since that day. While he hasn’t been able to take the next big step like many of his junior cricket contemporaries already have, Dagar has been an integral part of the Himachal Pradesh set-up, mostly down to the impact he brings to the table. 

In the group stage, he dismantled Odisha by picking up six wickets but most of his other performances helped others control the clutch. He built pressure from one end and kept a tidy channel to ensure that Services batters never had the chance to open their arms. It is fair to say that Dhawan and Sidharth Sharma benefited from that to shut the door on the Services unit. On the slow and low surface of Jaipur, which resembles more like Chepauk than Dharamsala, Dagar will not have a better opportunity to establish his second-coming once again.

But the game will eventually be decided for how easily Himachal can overcome the nerves and enjoy the present. It is a very understated trait in the sport which Tamil Nadu know exactly how to take benefit from. Knowing that and bringing a sense of calmness will be the first step towards the glorious title.

Probable XIs:

Himachal Pradesh: Rishi Dhawan (C), Amit Kumar, Gurvinder Singh, Prashant Chopra, Nikhil Gangta, Vinay Galetiya, Akash Vasisht, Mayank Dagar, Shubham Arora (Wk), Arpit Guleria, Amit Thakur

Tamil Nadu: Dinesh Karthik (Wk), Sandeep Warrier, Baba Indrajith, Shahrukh Khan, Jagatheesan Kousik, Washington Sundar, Ravisrinivasan Sai Kishore, Narayan Jagadeesan (C), Ragupathy Silambarasan, Manimaran Siddharth, Sai Sudharsan

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Himachal Pradesh vs Tamil NaduVijay Hazare Trophy, 2021Tamil NaduHimachal PradeshPrashant ChopraRishi DhawanMayank DagarVijay Shankar

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