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Albert TUTI Patriots captain Dinesh Karthik and Chepauk Super Gillies skipper R Sathish addressed the media ahead of the two teams’ India Cements TN Premier League finale at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, on Sunday. Excerpts:

As teams batting first have done well, so is winning the toss a priority?
Dinesh: It is pretty straightforward, unless both teams want to do something different; the teams winning the toss will want to bat first.

How do you sum up the first edition of the India Cements TN Premier League?
Dinesh: In all honesty, the edition has been a grand success. Whoever I have spoken to, be it Star Sports or the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA), people have related well and have good things to say. Of course, the good thing is that people say there is a lot of interest created in the districts. Earlier the clubs used to have 100 people and now 150 are coming in – a sign of improvement. As I said during the start of the tournament, the main agenda of the league has been to help people come forward from the districts and learning about the game. If that is the barometer to go by, we have done really well.

What is the biggest challenge for the organisers for the next edition?
Dinesh: Every year you have to find new ways to reinvent, it just cannot be the cricket; it has to be so much associated (with cricket). We should give back something different to the viewer and that is where I think Star Sports and the TNCA have done a great job. Even the simple graphics that they show on Star Sports or the way they publicize the tournament is superb. Hats off to the TNCA as it has been an all-round effort! I think they have set a certain benchmark, and with the way things are going, they are only going to get better. Whatever I spoke to them, they already have a lot of ideas. Also, they are in the mindset to create certain benchmarks in the domestic premier leagues as well. They want to be the best, at the minimum level – a good sign for this tournament.

Does the fact that your respective teams featured in the first match, and will now in the final, surprise you?
Dinesh: It is obviously a co-incidence! They played very good cricket throughout the tournament, started well, but had a slight dip of form in the middle before getting good momentum. We were the first and the second team in the drafts, so we had the opportunity to pick good players. The support staff should be given credit for picking a very good, all-round side for both teams – something which has helped us to do well till the grand finale.

Sathish: It is exciting as the first two teams that played the first game will play the finals as well. We didn’t expect to be playing them again, as I know that they are a very good team. So, we will aim to play our best game, whichever team we play, and give our best shot.

What will matter – the one day rest, or playing back-to-back games on the same venue?
Dinesh: We will be playing on a different wicket, so, obviously the one day rest will be helpful. But the tournament has been of such high-profile nature that everybody will come all guns blazing. I don’t think anyone will say that they are tired to play cricket on back-to-back days. In turn, they will be excited because it is the finals of the tournament; with great viewership on TV, and 25,000-30,000 people expected to watch from the stadium. There is no bigger motivation needed, and as I know these boys well, I am sure they will put their 100 percent. Also, I am expecting a very good game.

Sathish: There have been many teams who have played back-to-back games (in the tournament), so I don’t that will be a problem for us. As Dinesh said, it is the finals, and there will be extra energy, with a touch of excitement.

On the positives for your franchise
Dinesh: We have developed a good brand, but I must admit that the (Albert) TUTI Patriots have created a unique brand name. It can be seen from the fact that people have even come to cheer them on for their 2-3 km bus-ride, with the streets filled. A lot of people in Tuticorin and Tirunelveli will know about a lot of our junior players. Even when the tournament started, people were saying the younger players should be known amongst the common people from the districts of Tamil Nadu – an objective that has definitely been achieved.

Even the crowd in Tirunelveli and Dindigul were fantastic. All teams have done exceedingly well. The amount of money spent shows that they are all looking at it as a brand-building exercise. Also, the fact that they are making the most out of it is a great thing. Lot of credit must be given to the TNCA and Star Sports as they have got their money’s worth thanks to the superb viewership and coverage that has been achieved. As a franchisee, that is what you are looking at.

Sathish: Franchisee wise, it has been fantastic. You can see that our owner, who is 24, is very excited as well. He even had a couple of hits in the nets, with the team, and after the first loss, we thought that the franchisee will be hard on us. But the way they treated us, believed in us, was good to see. Marketing wise, it was superb as all the players were really comfortable, so we are thankful to the franchisee owners.

The younger players who have stood out?
Dinesh: In our team, in terms of youngsters, Kaushik Gandhi has stood out. He is somebody who has really taken up the pressure, doing exceedingly well. Then there is Washington Sundar- another fine player who has done very well. I don’t want to keep naming players, but these are the two players who come straight to my mind. Interestingly, if I am right, the highest wicket-taker in our team is L Balaji. Also, this tournament has been brilliant for experienced players as well. Hats off to him (Balaji) for the amount of interest he has shown and the fun he has brought about in the group, he has been phenomenal.

Sathish: The talk of the town has definitely been Sai (Kishore). He has been fantastic and has been doing well for us. I hope he continues to do it and reach the next level. Bobo (Ashwath Mukunthan) played only in the last game but still picked up five wickets. There may be players who haven’t got chances, but that doesn’t mean we don’t believe in them, or don’t have confidence in them. Also, there is the experienced (Vasanth) Saravanan – maybe one of the oldest players in the league, who has done well. As a unit, we are like family, each of us have contributed in their own way. It is just the matter of one more game.

How was the Duleep Trophy experience?
Dinesh: The pink ball is an interesting concept, and as I have been saying, if the crowd was what we needed to go by, then lots of people came for the game. People were coming in the nights, watching the game. But, in terms of the pink ball, they still have to do a little bit of work (for it to be a success in different conditions). It is more suited for slightly seaming wickets, as the ball can hold on to its lacquer, a little bit. For the spinners, there is not much purchase off the wicket, but then Kookabura have done some sort of homework, tried to change some things with the ball. D/N (Tests) cricket is a very interesting concept, it should be embraced by all countries.

How about trying pink ball in the TNCA matches?
Dinesh: The dynamics of the game will change. You could have played games right up to the semifinals, where you are dependent on the spinners. But, once you reach the finals, and you play under lights, then obviously the fast bowlers are more important. It is also important as to what time of the year you are going to play. Suppose, If you play at a time when there is dew, then it becomes a problem as it is very favourable (to batsmen). These are only the two things I can think of, but if you want to pull in the crowds, it is not a bad way to do it.

Your (Satish) name has not been listed for the probables of the Ranji Trophy, so what are your plans for the upcoming domestic season?
Sathish: I will just play my normal game, enjoy the cricket, score some runs and put pressure on the selectors. I am not looking to play Ranji Trophy outside of Tamil Nadu.

Do you think this tournament can produce national-level players on the lines of the IPL?
Dinesh: Look, no one can directly find a place in Team India solely on their performance in the India Cements TN Premier League. Firstly, after playing in this tournament, they will have to play for the Tamil Nadu team – something that can happen in this year. Keeping this in mind, I am sure there will be a lot of difference to the Tamil Nadu T20 team (in 2016) compared to the previous years’. I believe there will be a lot of different players and even the selectors will also be looking at guys who have done well in this format. So, when they play well for Tamil Nadu, they will be looked for an IPL team straightaway, and that is the way to go, depending on how they perform. Of course, they will also have a chance to play for India. It has been a great platform for local players to represent different districts and eventually pick a good Tamil Nadu team for the future.

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