Tamil Nadu coach Kulkarni: ‘We lost the Ranji Trophy semi-final at 9am on day one’

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Tamil Nadu coach Sulakshan Kulkarni reckoned that Tamil Nadu lost the Ranji Trophy 2023-24 semi-final at the toss on day one itself after captain R Sai Kishore elected to bat in helpful conditions for the bowlers. Kulkarni did not mince his words stating that they were “mentally prepared” that whoever wins the toss would elect to bowl first but the “captain had some different instinct”.

“I always speak straightforward — we lost the match at 9 o’clock on day one,” Kulkarni said after TN went down to Mumbai by an innings and 70 runs. “The moment I saw the wicket I exactly knew what we were going to get. Everything was set, we won the toss, as a coach, as a Mumbaikar, I know the conditions well. We should have bowled but the captain had some different instinct.”

Sai Kishore’s decision to bat backfired with TN reduced to 42 for 5 in the first session. They were eventually bowled out for 146. Mumbai then piled on 378 in their first dig before TN were bundled out for 162 to bow out of the Ranji Trophy inside three days.

“When I saw that they had played on a different pitch in the quarter-final and what wicket they gave, (that) moment I realised that this is a seaming-friendly wicket and it was going to be a very tough match, we would have to play really well to win this game,” Kulkarni said.

“Ultimately he [Sai Kishore] is the boss. I can give my feedback and inputs (on) the kind of wickets and Mumbai’s mindset also.”

TN lost opener Sai Sudharsan in the fourth ball of the first innings, and that according to Kulkarni is where the side lost the plot.

“We were mentally prepared that whoever wins the toss would bowl first,” he said. “We knew that we would bowl first. The moment they (TV broadcast) said we would bat first, whatever you say, it goes in the batsmen’s minds. That first half an hour (before play) got in the batsmen’s minds.

“When you get into the first over, third (fourth) ball, your international player gets out and you see the situation… in the first hour, we lost the game and the plot. It was very difficult to come back.”

Despite the low score in the first innings, TN had a chance to come back into the game having reduced Mumbai to 106 for 7 in the 48th over. But, Shardul Thakur, coming in at No. 9 smashed a 105-ball 109 to wrest any advantage. He first added 105 runs for the eighth wicket with Hardik Tamore and then a 79-run stand for the ninth wicket with Tanush Kotian. Tushar Deshpande and Kotian then added 88 runs for the final wicket to help Mumbai take a 232-run first-innings lead.

Kulkarni said that Mumbai have the best lower-order in the Indian domestic circuit. “They are the best Nos. 9 and 10 in India. I told this in the dressing room that their batting starts after No. 6. I can take the horse to the water, (but) the horse has to drink.”

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