Sparks could fly in Karnataka-Mumbai tie

Cricket Ranji Trophy

Amidst the characteristic rush of Mumbai, Brabourne Stadium was an island of tranquility. On a sunny Wednesday, Karnataka and Mumbai players went through their respective net sessions without any fuss, but all that could change when the umpires call ‘play’ on Thursday morning.

Sparks could fly when these two evenly-matched and in-form teams face each other in their Ranji Trophy Elite Group ‘A’ match. So far, both Karnataka and Mumbai have travelled the same route – a draw against Rajasthan, and an outright win with bonus point against Railways – to take the first and second position respectively in the chart with nine points.

The uncanny similarity between the two sides does not end there. Their batsmen have produced two double hundreds – KB Pawan for the visitors against Rajasthan and Abhishek Nayar for Mumbai against the same opposition – and two hundreds, Robin Uthappa and Stuart Binny for Karnataka and Rohit Sharma for the hosts. So, indications are there that this third round match will be another batsmen’s romp, and the Brabourne pitch too is loaded with runs.

An astounding 1225 runs were produced in the last match played here between Mumbai and Rajasthan that also prompted Mumbai coach Sulakshan Kulkarni and skipper Wasim Jaffer to lodge an official complaint with the Mumbai Cricket Association about the nature of the 22-yard strip after that match. But it remains to be seen whether morrow’s match will be played on the same pitch or the adjacent one.

However, the local brains believe that there’s something in the pitch for the pace bowlers who are willing to bend their backs and put that extra ounce of effort. On that front, Karnataka is well equipped, perhaps a tad more than their rivals. The troika of skipper R Vinay Kumar, A Mithun and S Arvind, has played only a relatively passive role thus far, largely supporting left-arm spinner KP Appanna, who is the highest wicket-taker in the Elite Group after two matches with a whopping 17 wickets. But the pace triumvirate’s class, record and potential to inflict damage can’t be ignored in any circumstances.

Slightly helpful condition is what they need to transform into their destructive selves. Mithun has indicated with a couple of lion-hearted spells in the previous matches that the Karnataka pace battery is just waiting for the right atmosphere to unleash the mayhem, and morrow will not be a bad time to do that. A concerted effort from Karnataka bowlers is mandatory against a side that contains the likes of Rohit Sharma, Abhishek Nayar and Wasim Jaffer – all big innings players.

Now, Mumbai have also have the luxury of fielding Ajinkya Rahane – released by the Indian team management for this game – and the youngster’s penchant to score massively in domestic circuit is well-chronicled. They will also be benefitted by the return of Ajit Agarkar.

But all eyes will be on Surya Kumar Yadav, whose exploits with the bat this season have caught the attention of the bigwigs.

A hard-hitting and fearless batsman with talent to match, this right-hander has impressed all with a hurricane fifty against Rajasthan in the previous game. The local circle is quite excited at the prospect of Yadav matching his wits against as accomplished a bowling line-up as Karnataka’s.

Karnataka look in perfect shape in their bowling department, and if Manish Pandey too can join the league of big scoring batsmen, the visitors’ batting too will attain a rounded look. “I am sure Manish will come to party sooner than later. There’s no need to shuffle him to a different position in batting order,” Vinay said.

Squads: Mumbai: Wasim Jaffer (capt), Ajit Agarkar, Ramesh Powar, Rohit Sharma, Abhishek Nayar, Ajinkya Rahane, Suryakumar Yadav, Nikhil Patil (Jr), Kaustubh Pawar, Murtuza Hussain, Onkar Gurav (wk), Dhawal Kulkarni, Aavishkar Salvi, Iqbal Abdulla, Ankeet Chavan.

Karnataka: R Vinay Kumar (capt), KB Pawan, Robin Uthappa, Ganesh Satish, Manish Pandey, Amit Verma, CM Gautam (wk), Stuart Binny, Abhimanyu Mithun, KP Appanna, S Arvind, Bharat Chipli, SK Moinuddin, Sunil Raju, SL Akshay, KJ Gautham.
Umpires: K Hariharan (Tamil Nadu) and Ullas Gandhe (Vidarbha).

Other Elite fixtures:

Group ‘A’: Punjab vs Saurashtra at Mohali; Orissa vs Uttar Pradesh at Sambalpur; Railways vs Rajasthan at New Delhi.

Group ‘B’: Baroda vs Haryana at Vadodara; Bengal vs Madhya Pradesh at Kolkata; Delhi vs Tamil Nadu at New Delhi.
Plate League:

Group A: Andhra vs Himachal Pradesh at Vijayawada; Kerala vs Tripura at Kochi; Services vs Vidarbha at New Delhi.

Group B: Assam vs Hyderabad at Guwahati; Jammu & Kashmir vs Goa at Jammu; Maharashtra vs Jharkhand at Nasik.

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