Dindigul, July 20: It's a battle of champions in Tamil Nadu Twenty20 Premier League (TNPL 2019) here on Saturday (July 20) when defending champions Madurai Panthers lock horns with 2016 winners Tuti Patriots.
Former Tamil Nadu batsman and Madurai captain KB Arun Karthick is excited at the challenge of defending the crown as no team has done it before. "No other team has defended the title. I don't see it as a pressure, I see it as a good challenge going into the tournament," said Karthick.
Reflecting on the success of last season after a series of lows when they couldn't win a single match in 2016 and 2017, Karthick said: "Whatever happened last year is over. It's a fresh season now with fresh challenges. Our focus this season has been to improve our fielding and our middle-order batting. We've done our homework right this year," he added.
Karthick, 33, said they made some good picks in the players draft and hopes they come good. "Definitely, we got what we wanted in the draft. We wanted to strengthen our spin department and we also wanted some batsmen. I think we have got them both covered. There are very exciting talents."
Karthick said the players to watch out for this season are batsman Tushar Raheja, all-rounder Lokesh Raj and all-rounder Mithun R: "Tushar is a good prospect for Tamil Nadu and so is Lokesh. We've also got Mithun, an off-spin all-rounder who has the ability to spin the ball very well. These guys are made for this format."
While Madurai is riding high on last season's success, their rivals Tuti Patriots are keen to be back in the reckoning. The latter slipped to fifth place last season having won the title in the first season and played the final in 2017. They have roped in 12 new players this season, including their captain Subramania Siva.
Siva is banking on the new players to deliver an improved performance this season. "We have picked a few good players from the lower division and also have a bunch of experienced players. The energy has been good in the practice games. We are confident that we'd do well in this tournament. We want to provide opportunities to all the players who we have picked. Meanwhile, we also want to provide a platform for all the upcoming players," said the 35-year-old all-rounder.
Interestingly, Tuti Patriots hold a 2-1 advantage over Madurai in their three meetings so far.
Match timings:7:15 P.M. onwards
Live on: Star Sports: Star Sports 3, Star Sports (Tamil), Vijay Super
Head to Head: Madurai Panthers 1; Tuti Patriots 2
SQUADS: Madurai Panthers: Varun CV, Abhishek Tanwar, Rahil S Shah, Kousik J, Nilesh Subramanian R, Tushar Raheja, Kiran Akash L, Lokesh Raj TD, Sabin Somatha Karnavar, Promoth MS, Arun Karthick KB (captain), Shijit Chandran P, Karthikeyan R.
Tuti Patriots: Washington Sundar, Athisayaraj Davidson V, Akshay V Srinivasan, Dinesh S, Abishiek S, Venkatesh A, Nidhish S Rajagopal, Boopalan S, Shubham Mehta S, Ganesh Moorthi M.