Positive signals on a new pitch

Celebration time Sarfraz Ashraf (right) of Provident Bangalore was among the clutch of players who impressed at the inaugural Karnataka Premier League. DH photo/ Srikanta Sharma R

Some stirring tales of comeback, arrival of a clutch of players who can offer a lot to Karnataka cricket, quality cricket at times, and, above all, a good public response — the first few steps of the Karnataka Premier League were confident without being spectacular.

The 15 days, through which the first KPL was played, offered enough portends that this venture has the potential to give a fresh look to the State’s cricketing landscape. It has much to do with a set of players who proved the State’s stable runs deep beyond the known names, in tune with KPL’s stated motto of unearthing new talent.
In the pre-KPL times, names like Sarfraz Ashraf, HT Sudhir Rao, DH Sunil Kumar and Aniruddha Joshi, in line for Royal Challengers call, were laced with a certain amount of ambiguity. But post-KPL, they have become somewhat familiar, not just names but their abilities too.

None was more impressive than Ashraf. The left-arm spinner played a major role in leading Provident Bangalore to the KPL title and the Tumkur lad, in the Royal Challengers radar, can be a serious contender once Sunil Joshi vacates his place in the State team. This 19-year old, who started out as a paceman, has a good array of variations that can stun the batsmen.

This is not to say that the familiar names were completely overshadowed. The likes of J Arun Kumar, the highest run-getter in KPL, David Johnson, the highest wicket-taker in the event, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, who struck the lone hundred of the tournament for Belagavi Panthers, NC Aiyappa, R Vinay Kumar and Joshi (though Shamanur Davangere Diamonds finished with thewooden spoon), proved the value of experience at various stages of the tournament with tidy performances.

Second chance
KPL has also offered a chance for some players like Stuart Binny, who returned to the official fold after severing his ICL links, Jonathan Rongsen, a contemporary of Uthappa in age-group cricket, Vinu Prasad and Gaurav Dhiman to walk back into the limelight.
Jonathan, who appeared for Mangalore United, displayed his exceptional hitting powers and the ability to pluck some crucial wickets with his gentle medium pace. Jonathan’s career appeared heading nowhere a while back when he failed to find a place in the State even after some good shows for various junior teams. But a place in the Royal Challengers’ development squad could give his career that much-needed fillip.

Good response
The fact that KPL offered some of these players a chance to polish their skills ahead of the domestic season cannot be doubted. For that, they should thank profusely the hard work the groundsmen put in while preparing venues in Bangalore and Mysore where pitches held on till the end, leading to some good contests. The quality of cricket too was a factor that prompted the public to react positively towards KPL.

There was this apprehension of the event being played in front of empty galleries, but the trepidation proved wrong during the course of the event as the crowd turned out in good numbers on most of the days with the final registering the highest number, 15,000.
“It has been a good response from crowd on all the 15 days, especially in Mysore where we had full house on all three days. The franchises too have done well. The support for the local team, Mysore Maharaajas, was heartening to see and, hopefully, we can allocate more matches to regional areas from next year,” KSCA secretary Brijesh Patel said. “The only hiccup in conducting matches in regional areas is the difficulty for TV crew to transport their equipment in a short time. But that can be solved if we can manage some portable floodlights in those places. We are working towards it,” Patel added.
It was not roses all the way though, with fielding lapses frequently blotting the matches. An in-house row in the Bijapur Bulls camp also left a bitter taste in the mouth just before the semifinals with skipper Sudhindra Shinde being removed from his post. The tournament as a whole, though provided a mixture of quality entertainment and some edgy episodes with the former taking the front seat. So, wait on for 2010!

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