Time to address chinks

Confident Karnataka face Uttar Pradesh from today

Karnataka’s final league match against Uttar Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy Super League Group B, starting here on Wednesday, offers a multitude of exciting possibilities despite its seemingly academic nature.

Indeed, Karnataka assured themselves of a berth in the quarterfinals when they bagged three points against Baroda in Mysore, but there are some areas the visitors still have to work on ahead of the knock-out phase and the match at the Green Park stadium here offers them a splendid chance to iron out a few flaws.

For Uttar Pradesh, this is a proverbial do-or-die match as a defeat against Karnataka will most likely end their knock-out stage aspirations. UP have 14 points from five outings at an overall run-rate of 0.98 while Baroda, who will face Himachal Pradesh, too have 14 points. But Baroda have a superior nett run-rate of 1.24.Haryana too have an outside chance to enter the quarterfinals from Group B. They have 12 points at 0.88 from five outings and they will take on lowly Orissa at Rohtak in their last league match. So that makes it mandatory for UP to win against Karnataka as even a three-point effort could make them dependent on the last minute calculations for their entry into the round of eight.

“We know the task ahead of us is very hard. We are up against a form side in Karnataka and we will require a big effort to beat them. But our boys are confident of delivering against a quality opposition in a pressure situation,” said Gyanendra Pandey, coach of the Uttar Pradesh team.

However, the home side will not have the services of paceman Sudeep Tyagi, an important member of the UP attack with 18 wickets this season, and Praveen Kumar due to injuries. “Their absence is certainly a blow, but we have enough talent in our ranks to come up with a strong show,” Pandey said.

Karnataka too have their share of injury concerns as pacer Abhimanyu Mithun suffered a back strain while training, but a call on him will be taken only on the morrow. If he misses the game, then it will be a huge setback for Mithun as he had shown signs of getting back to his wicket-taking ways in the last three matches after an indifferent beginning to the season.

The Greenpark pitch has the tradition of favouring either spinners or batsmen. In the past, we have seen some tall scores here, like the aggregate of 1096 runs made by India and Sri Lanka for the loss of a mere 17 wickets in the 1986-87 season. Spinners too have found some help as Indian tweakers fashioned a series-levelling win here against South Africa inside three days in 2008.

Cut to the present, Karnataka is well-equipped in both the batting and spin departments, even though there is some worry on the batting front. Veteran Sunil Joshi, who recently completed 600 wickets in first-class cricket, has performed his new role, more restrictive in nature, to perfection. The left-arm spinner has so far taken 18 wickets from five matches at an impressive rate of 2.17.

The combination of left-arm pacer S Arvind, the leading wicket-taker for Karnataka this season with 21 wickets, and skipper R Vinay Kumar, 12 wickets from three matches, could be a handful under any conditions.

The only worry for Karnataka has been the patchy form of their top-order batsmen. The visitors’ frontline has crumbled often in the last four matches, forcing the lower order to come up with rescue missions. But they showed a welcome return to run-making ways against Baroda and the top-order should continue the good work to end their league campaign on a high.

Team’s (from): Karnataka: R Vinay Kumar (capt), Robin Uthappa, KB Pawan, Ganesh Satish, Manish Pandey, Amit Verma, CM Gautam, Stuart Binny, Sunil Joshi, A Mithun, S Arvind, Udit Patel, KL Rahul, Aditya Sagar, Sunil N Raju.
UP: Mohammad Kaif (capt), Tanmay Srivastava, Shivkant Shukla, Digvijay Singh, Parveender Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amir Khan, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Sudeep Tyagi, Ashish Yadav, Amit Singh, Praveen Gupta, Rudra Pratap Singh, Shalabh Srivastava.


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