Madhya Pradesh fast bowler Kuldeep Sen, who made his international debut in December last year, is set to play for Tamil Nadu in the 2023-24 domestic season. It is understood that Kuldeep has been cleared by the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA) to turn out as a guest player for Tamil Nadu.
Kuldeep has taken 52 wickets so far in 17 first-class games to go with 49 strikes in List A and T20 cricket. He is currently working his way back from injury and his recovery is being monitored by the National Cricket Academy (NCA). He played only two IPL games earlier this year and hasn’t played any competitive cricket since April.
Kuldeep isn’t part of the Tamil Nadu’s sides in the Buchi Babu tournament, which has been revived to serve as preparation for the Ranji Trophy. But his impending inclusion in the Tamil Nadu attack could be a significant boost for a team that is searching for its first Ranji Trophy title since 1987-88. They had last made the Ranji knockouts in 2016-17, when T Natarajan burst onto the scene and strengthened the pace attack.
Gaurav Yadav has also obtained an NOC from MPCA to play for Puducherry in the upcoming domestic season. He is set to replace bowling allrounder Ankit Sharma, who also hails from MP. Paras Dogra and KB Arun Karthik are likely to be the other two professionals for Puducherry. Gaurav was the highest wicket-taker among all seamers, with 23 strikes in five games, in MP’s run to the Ranji title in 2022.
Earlier, there were reports of Hanuma Vihari moving from Andhra to MP, but it is understood that he has now opted to stay back at Andhra. Delhi left-arm fast bowler Kulwant Khejroliya, meanwhile, is in consideration to fill the void created by the departure of Kuldeep and Gaurav at MP.
With Tamil Nadu lacking out-and-out fast bowlers, new head coach Sulakshan Kulkarni was keen on bringing in a quick from outside the state, especially for the Ranji Trophy. When in rhythm, Kuldeep can hit speeds north of 140kph and also trouble batters with extra bounce. He brings with him the experience of having been part of an MP squad that had won the Ranji Trophy recently in 2022. He will now lead Tamil Nadu’s pace attack that could potentially include Sandeep Warrier, who had moved from Kerala in 2020 but is now a local player since he is employed with India Cements in the state, and rookie H Trilog Nag.
Left-arm pacer Gurjapneet Singh, who was particularly impressive for Madurai Panthers in the TNPL, could step in for Natarajan, who has shifted his focus to white-ball cricket after a recurrence of a knee injury.
In their quest to build a large pool of bowlers, especially pacers, the TNCA had recently launched a talent-hunt programme, casting their scouting nets wider. The shortlisted bowlers were subsequently part of camps in Chennai, Theni and Tiruppur.
Kulkarni had also overseen two preparatory camps in Coimbatore and Dindigul, ahead of the new domestic season. Kulkarni then attended games in the TNPL along with bowling coach L Balaji.
Vijay Shankar and M Shahrukh Khan will be the captains of the TNCA president’s XI and TNCA XI sides in the four-day Buchi Babu tournament that will run from August 15 to September 11 in the districts. Senior spinner R Ashwin has been rested while Washington Sundar will be on national duty in Dublin. Teams from Mumbai, Delhi, MP, Bengal, Haryana, Baroda, Kerala and Jammu & Kashmir will also compete in the tournament.