On the eve of Tamil Nadu's Ranji Trophy semifinal against Mumbai, once he had finished his stints with the bat and 'keeping gloves, one would have thought Dinesh Karthik was done for the day. However, instead of heading to the dressing room, the 26-year-old went to meet his old pal and Mumbai all-rounder Abhishek Nayar.
The two played for Kings XI Punjab during the last edition of IPL. However, the camaraderie will be forgotten for the next four days as much is in stake. The match offer an opportunity to half-a-dozen cricketers from either sides who are on the fringes of national selection again and will put an end to the campaign of one of the heavyweights.
That will perhaps be unfair because 39-times champions Mumbai and Tamil Nadu, the southern superstars, have by far been the best teams this time. Despite a few setbacks during the season - due to loss of form and injuries to key players - both have rebounded strongly. While one would be tempted to put their money Mumbai, purely going by their astonishing record in the knockouts, Tamil Nadu will be favoured if recent form is taken into account.
L Balaji's side looks more balanced. They also got the better of Mumbai in the previous two meetings on the basis of the first innings lead. However, they last met six years ago. A fit Nayar, who missed the last two games, and Dhawal Kulkarni will be hoping to repeat their semifinal win in 1999-2000.