Confident Karnataka take on depleted Delhi

Cricket: Ranji Trophy: Already minus five national stars, hosts may lose their skipper too


Ahead of the four-day Ranji Trophy Super League match at the Roshanara Club ground beginning on Tuesday, the hosts received a big jolt when skipper Aakash Chopra was declared a doubtful starter due to a cyst in his knee. Added to injuries to leggie Chetanya Nanda and Mithun Manhas, yet to recover from a hamstring strain, Delhi certainly wear a depleted look.

“Don’t take any depleted team lightly,” said Karnataka skipper Rahul Dravid in jest, not even referring to the happenings in the India-Australia one-day series. However logical his view may sound, it’s irresistible to install Karnataka as favourites.

It was a commanding batting show, supported by a superlative bowling effort, that saw Karnataka start their campaign on a winning note, and Dravid backed his boys to repeat the feat against Delhi. You can count on Dravid to come good nine out of ten times, but it’s the performances of the young turks like centurion Manish Pandey and Abhimanyu Mithun, who returned a 11-wicket haul on debut, that has given them an extra edge.   
 
It’s hard to recollect when last a Karnataka side looked so resourceful and well-rounded. Seldom in recent times has the phrase perfect amalgam of youth and experience sounded so meaningful. With the unearthing of Mithun, Karnataka have found a lethal new-ball combo of him and R Vinay Kumar, while left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi forms a decent slow bowling unit along with either offie Udit Patel or fellow left-armer KP Appanna.

The green tinge on the surface may tempt the team management to include left-arm seamer S Aravind at the expense of a spinner, but talk that the grass may further be shaved has forced them to wait until the morning of the match.

With Robin Uthappa away playing for the Board President’s XI against Sri Lanka in Mumbai, CM Gautam is almost certain to open the batting with KB Pawan, though Ganesh Satish has been flown to join a batting line-up that has as much solidity as flair.

Delhi are facing a situation that Karnataka did in the not too distant past, when five to six of their players used to be on national duty. With five of their own – Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma and Virat Kohli – in the current Indian squad, the home team could have done without injuries to Chopra and Nanda that will leave their side without much experience.

If Chopra fails to make it, last-match double centurion Shikhar Dhawan will lead the team while the 28-year-old Joginder Singh will make his first-class debut. Dhawan will also be without the services of left-arm seamer Pradeep Sangwan, included in the Board XI and leaving the left-hander to rely on the pace duo of Sumeet Narwal and Parvinder Awana and left-arm spinner Darshan Kajania. Not an ideal situation to captain the side. 

Teams (from): Delhi: Aakash Chopra (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Gaurav Chabra, Ankur Julka, Rajat Bhatia, Yogesh Nagar, Mayank Tehlan, Punit Bisht, Sumeet Narwal, Aditya Jain, Darshan Kajania, Pawan Sayal, Parvez Chikara, Abhishek Sharma, Parvinder Awana, Joginder Singh. 

Karnataka: Rahul Dravid (capt), KB Pawan, CM Gautam, Amit Verma, Manish Pandey, Thilak Naidu, B Akhil, Sunil Joshi, R Vinay Kumar, Udit Patel, A Mithun, S Aravind, Ganesh Satish, Stuart Binny, Ryan Ninan, KP Appanna. 

Umpires: Kamlesh Sharma (Rajasthan) and Vilas Karhdkar (Maharashtra). Match referee: Amar Petiwale (Baroda). Hours of play: 0930-1200 hours, 1240-1440 hours and 1500-end of play.

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