Karnataka hope to make a bright start to season

Karnataka hope to make a bright start to season

Six-time champions take on UP in the opening match from today

Where Karnataka have struggled to make an impact on the domestic stage, Uttar Pradesh have gone from strength to strength, evidenced by three appearances in the final of the Ranji Trophy in the last four seasons.

As the country’s most prestigious domestic competition enters its 76th year, it is difficult to say which of the challenges is more daunting. For Uttar Pradesh, it is about building on recent success; for Karnataka, the challenge lies in the younger boys graduating from promise to eye-catching performances, thereby bringing back the glory days of the past.
The idyllic setting at the basic but well maintained Bhamashah Cricket stadium at this most bustling city will kick-start another season of hope and dreams for the one-time domestic giants who have since fallen upon bad times.

The inspirational presence of Rahul Dravid, who has also embraced leadership responsibilities for the first two matches, ought to be just the tonic Karnataka require as they begin their Super League Group B campaign, a journey crucial for the likes of Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Amit Verma and R Vinay Kumar. And for Abhimanyu Mithun, the gangling right-arm paceman widely regarded as one of the most exciting prospects to come out of the State in the last many years.

Set for his first-class debut on Tuesday, the 20-year-old could just be the steady new-ball partner for Vinay that Karnataka have so desperately been seeking. Blessed with tremendous pace and possessing the ability to procure appreciable bounce, Mithun has caught the eye of the men who matter; among his many admirers is his captain too.
Five of Karnataka’s six league games are on the road, beginning with back-to-back fixtures against UP here and Delhi next week. “These two are among the top teams in the group, so it will be important to start well,” Dravid said. “It will be nice if we can pick up some points, it will set us up for the rest of the season. If we can beat some of the better teams, it will give the boys confidence.”

Dravid will lead by example, but his greatest contribution will be if he can galvanise the Uthappas, the Pandeys and the Vermas into rising to the occasion. Equally, the younger bowling cogs – Vinay, Mithun, all-rounder B Akhil and offie Udit Patel – must take the load off Sunil Joshi’s experienced shoulders for Karnataka to emerge into an all-round unit that justifies Dravid’s ‘balanced outfit’ claim.
Dravid also exhorted Karnataka’s younger batsmen to start thinking, and scoring, big in the domestic season ahead.
“I have been talking to the youngsters about not being satisfied with 40s and 50s, to keep performing consistently,” the skipper said.

“The talent is there, no doubt, but if they perform consistently and the team does well, it will give them recognition and take them to bigger stages.”
High on confidence, Uttar Pradesh will relish beginning their campaign at home, on a track expected to play slower and lower as the game develops. Mohammad Kaif’s delight at the availability of paceman Rudra Pratap Singh was all too obvious even if the UP skipper spoke of ‘enough resources to fill gaps’ and the batting wears a solid look with the skipper himself as the lynchpin.
All set, then, for first day, first show. Let the fun and games begin!

Teams: Uttar Pradesh (from): Mohammad Kaif (capt), Tanmay Srivastava, Shivakant Shukla, Imtiyaz Ahmed, Rohit Prakash Srivastava, Parvinder Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Piyush Chawla, Amir Khan, Rudra Pratap Singh, Amit Singh, Shallabh Srivastava, Praveen Gupta, Ravikant Shukla, Ashish Yadav.
Karnataka (likely): Rahul Dravid (capt), KB Pawan, Robin Uthappa, Amit Verma, Manish Pandey, Thilak Naidu, B Akhil, Sunil Joshi, R Vinay Kumar, Udit Patel, A Mithun.
Umpires: K Hariharan (Delhi) and Rajeev Risodkar (Madhya Pradesh).
Hours of play: 0930-1200 hours, 1240-1440 hours and 1500-end of play.
Super League groupings:
Group A: Gujarat, Orissa, Hyderabad, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Mumbai, Railways, Tamil Nadu.
Group B: Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Baroda, Delhi, Maharashtra, Bengal, Saurashtra.

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