Depleted Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh to bank on batters

Absence of pacers Vinay, Mithun opens up chance for youngsters

In the absence of key pacemen through injuries, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh find themselves in similar situations, hoping their respective batsmen would save the day for them in their Group B Ranji Trophy encounter beginning on Saturday at the Victoria Park ground.

While Karnataka are without their regular skipper and pace spearhead R Vinay Kumar and his new-ball partner Abhimanyu Mithun, the hosts will miss the services of RP Singh and local boy Praveen Kumar. However, Karnataka, more than UP, will be feeling the absence of the two pacers as it deprives their attack the luxury of experience. On the other hand, the home team, even without RP and Praveen, have seasoned domestic campaigners in quicks Sudeep Tyagi and Bhuvneshwar Kumar and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla. Another seamer Imtiaz Ahmed has given a good account of himself in the match against Delhi.

But as Karnataka selector Fazal Khaleel pointed out, ‘in every adversity, there’s an opportunity.’ While he will not be happy with the manner in which his chance has come about, Ronit More will be keen to present a good case of himself when the right-arm pacer gets the new ball in the course of this third-round match.

SL Akshay, who made his debut last season, will fill in the other slot while it remains to be seen if HS Sharath, the rookie right-arm quick, will be included to form a four-pronged pace attack which batting coach J Arun Kumar didn’t rule out.

“This is perhaps the most difficult situation for us without two of our main bowlers,” admitted Arun on the eve of the match. “But we know how good Ronit is and he is desperate to get a match. Akshay has an idea of things at this level and after a look at the pitch tomorrow, we will see whether we have to include Sharath, which means three fast bowlers plus (stand-in skipper) Stuart (Binny), or go in with (off-spinner) Gowtham to complement (KP) Appanna.”

Talking of Appanna, the left-arm spinner has endured a forgettable two matches this season. Come to think of it, save for the first two games of the last season – against Rajasthan and Railways – when he took 17 wickets, the 23-year-old has been a big letdown. Since those two matches, the Kodava lad has bagged just 16 wickets in the eight matches, including two this year, and it’s high time he delivered as the lead spinner of the side.

With only Binny being the other experienced bowler, it’s crucial for Appanna to excel against a batting line-up that is doing well without major contributions from skipper Suresh Raina and Mohammad Kaif. Chasing Maharashtra’s mammoth 764/6 declared, UP batsmen made a telling statement, replying with 669/7 by the time the match had run its course on a lifeless surface in Pune.

Karnataka batsmen were equally impressive, if not more, during their chase of 538/4 declared against Tamil Nadu in Chennai. Ganesh Satish (200 n.o.) and CM Gautam (130 n.o.) formed a game-changing alliance to earn a first-innings lead that not only helped them garner three crucial points but gain plenty of confidence as well.

Barring Manish Pandey and Amit Verma, rest of the batsmen have been amongst runs and the two batsmen, who have their roots in the undivided UP, will be looking to get their act together.

And if Pandey, struggling for a while now, needs an inspiration to regain his normal self, the right-hander need not look beyond his master-class (194) when the two sides met here last, in the 2009-10 season.

Teams (from):  UTTAR PRADESH: Suresh Raina (capt), Tanmay Srivastava, Mukul Dagar,  Mohammad Kaif, Parvinder Singh, Arish Alam, Piyush Chawla, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amir Khan, Imtiaz Ahmed, Sudeep Tyagi, Ali Murtaza, Amit Singh, Eklavya Dwivedi.
KARNATAKA: Stuart Binny (capt), Robin Uthappa, KB Pawan, Ganesh  Satish, Manish Pandey (vice-captain), Amit Verma, CM Gautam, Ronit More, KP Appanna, SL Akshay, K Gowtham, HS Sharath, KL Rahul, Kunal Kapoor, SK Moinuddin.

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