Hosts have plenty to ponder

Absence of Vinay and Mithun will affect Karnataka bowling

It’s not so much the opposition — they are up against Saurashtra in the Group ‘A’ Elite clash beginning Tuesday — that the six-time Ranji champions will be wary of though. Instead it’s their own selection dilemmas that have arisen due to unavailability of three of their key players for different reasons.

Karnataka skipper and their spearhead R Vinay Kumar, fellow paceman A Mithun (a last-minute replacement for the injured Praveen Kumar) are in the squad for the one-day series against the West Indies while their star batsman Manish Pandey more or less has been ruled out of the remainder of the season following a hernia operation.

Without Vinay, the three-pronged Karnataka pace attack would not have the same punch. And with Mithun too being asked to join the Indian squad, most of the sting has been taken out of the feared bowling unit. Vinay’s absence deprives the attack of a shrewd leader besides the variety he brings in. Now, with Mithun too out, left-arm seamer S Arvind will have to lead the attack in the company of SL Akshay, all set to make his first-class debut, and possibly NC Aiyappa who has been drafted in for Mithun.

The latest development may force Karnataka to deviate from their three-pacemen policy and bring in an extra spinner, most probably off-spinning all-rounder Sunil Raju, to link up with an in-form KP Appanna.

The left-arm spinner, after three matches, is the highest wicket-taker in the country with 17 scalps including a 10-wicket haul against Railways. With Stuart Binny, who missed Tuesday’s practice due to illness, showing some promise of filling in as a third seamer during the match against Mumbai, the Ganesh Satish-led side will be encouraged to opt for the spin of Raju who will also bolster the batting, sorely misssing the flamboyance of Pandey.

Pandey’s place will be taken by another free-flowing right-hander Bharath Chipli, who will be playing his first match in three years.

While the 28-year-old will be keen to prove his worth, Karnataka’s batting itself appears sound. Barring CM Gautam, all the batsmen have been amongst big runs and only stand-in skipper Ganesh has missed out on a three-figure score.

Leading the table with 12 points following two first innings leads and an innings win, Karnataka, playing at home for the first time, should fancy their chances against a blow-hot blow-cold Saurashtra.

The Jaydev Shah-led side returned without a point in their opening match despite mounting a 500-plus total as they failed to bundle out opponents Orissa.
They conceded lead to Uttar Pradesh in the next before bouncing back with an innings win over struggling Punjab.  

Somewhat weakened by the absence of key player Ravindra Jadeja, the visitors, however, will be compensated to an extent with middle-order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara all set to play his first competitive match since injuring his left knee during an IPL IV match at the very same venue more than six months ago. The untimely injury denied the 23-year-old a rightful place in the subsequent Indian Test sides and the right-hander will be keen to make up for the lost time.

On the eve of the match the Chinnaswamy surface sported a generous green cover but how much of it will be sheared before the first ball is bowled remains to be seen.
With conditions having remained damp for the last few days, the pitch preparations have taken some beating and if the weather continues to stay so, it’s unlikely the match will begin on time.    

Teams (from):
KARNATAKA: Ganesh Satish (capt), Robin Uthappa, KB Pawan, Bharath Chipli, Amit Verma, CM Gautam (wk), Stuart Binny, Sunil Raju, S Arvind, KP Appanna, SL Akshay, NC Aiyappa, Karun Nair, KJ Gowatham, SK Moinuddin.
SAURASHTRA: Jaydev Shah (capt), Chirag Pathak, Bhushan Chauhan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sagar Jogiyani, Ravindra Jadeja, Shitanshu Kotak, Pratik Mehta, Sandip Maniyar, Jaydev Unadkat, Jayesh Odiara, Siddarth Trivedi, Nayan Doshi, Arpit Vasavada, Sheldon Jackson.
Match officials:
Umpires: GA Pratap Kumar and Barathan K;
Match referee: Kiran Mokashi.
Match hours: 0930 to 1200 hours; 1240 to 1440 hours; 1500 to close of day’s play.

Other Elite fixtures:
Group ‘A’: Orissa vs Mumbai at Cuttack; Punjab vs Railways at Mohali; Rajasthan vs Uttar Pradesh at Jaipur.
Group ‘B’: Delhi vs Baroda at New Delhi; Haryana vs Bengal at Rohtak; Madhya Pradesh vs Gujarat at Indore.
Plate fixtures:
Group ‘A’: Himachal Pradesh vs Services at Dharamsala; Kerala vs Andhra at Kochi; Tripura vs Vidarbha at Agartala.
Group ‘B’: Goa vs Hyderabad at Goa; Jharkhand vs Assam at Dhanbad; Maharashtra vs Jammu & Kashmir at Ratnagiri.

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