Karnataka look to retain momentum

Uthappa's men take on Bengal today

Karnataka owe their current position as much to inspiring bowling and batting shows as to the inspirational leadership of Rahul Dravid, who led from the front in the first two games he played against Uttar Pradesh and Delhi helping the hosts accrue eight points from them.

In Dravid’s absence Robin Uthappa, who missed out on the second game, will captain the side and needless to say the dashing opener has big shoes to fill in. After the performances in the first two matches, expectations obviously are high from Karnataka against Bengal.

Uthappa isn’t new to captaincy having led the side in the last season without much distinction. In the backdrop of what Dravid has managed at the start of the season, the pressure on Uthappa will be manifold when he marshals his side against Bengal. Having conceded lead to the visitors in their previous encounter here (at the Infosys ground) some three seasons ago, Karnataka will also be keen to set the record straight. Going by their exploits in the previous two matches, Karnataka, coupled with the advantage of playing under home conditions, will start marginal favourites against Lakshmi Ratan Shukla’s side. But the key to success lies in sustaining the momentum through the course of the match, something they have managed in the first two games and something which has been lacking in the past few seasons. 

While Karnataka’s bowling -- especially the pace attack manned by R Vinay Kumar, A Mithun and S Aravind -- has looked the best in some seasons now, batting, minus the solid Dravid, will come under some scrutiny should it fail to muster anything notable.

Going by the form book, Manish Pandey will continue to be their lynchpin along with Uthappa. Opener KB Pawan has looked compact and solid so far, but it’s time Amit Verma did something noteworthy. C M Gautam, who will replace Thilak Naidu behind the wickets, has a job at hand.

It’s difficult to recall when Naidu missed out on a first-class game for Karnataka. An integral part of the side for over a decade now, the right-hander has lent solidity to the middle-order with his ability to switch gears with ease. It’s true the 29-year-old hasn’t been amongst big runs this season, but for someone who has played over 80 matches for the State, a formal intimation was the least the selectors could have done before dumping him unceremoniously.

Bengal, coached by former Karnataka Test star Roger Binny, have had a mixed bag in the first two matches, winning one and conceding the lead in the second. They will also be without the services of Sourav Ganguly, whose flowing half-century against Baroda didn’t stop them from finishing second best.

But on its day, Bengal batting has enough depth to hold more than its own. They also have a decent pace attack while spin department revolves around offie Sourashish Lahiri. Against a confident home side, Bengal will face a stern test.

Out of the twelve times the two teams have met each other, Karnataka have won thrice while Bengal have four wins. Five matches have resulted in draws.

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

Bengal: Lakshmi Ratan Shukla (capt), Arindam Das, Rohan Banerjee, Manoj Tiwary, Deep Dasgupta, Dibyendu Chakraborty, Arindam Ghosh, Wriddiman Saha (wk), Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Sayan Mondal, Ranadeb Bose, Ashok Dinda, Sourashish Lahiri Sourav Sarkar, Iresh Saxena, Shibsagar Singh.  

Umpires: Rajiv Risodkar and Milind Pathak; Match referee: K Jayaraman.
Hours of play: 0930-1200 hours, 1240-1440 hours and 1500-end of play.

Ranji Trophy matches at Mysore

* Karnataka have played nine, won five, lost one and drawn one of their matches.

* They have scored the highest of 479 against Hyderabad in 1958 while SV Rangaraj scored the highest individual score of 135. The highest score by any other State came from Rajasthan in 2007. They scored 393.

* Karnataka were bundled out for 138 against Hyderabad making it their lowest total. Kerala have the reputation for scoring the least number of runs. They finished at 82 in 1961.

* KKM Prasad picked up six for 26 to top Karnataka’s best bowling performance chart.

* KM Prasad picked up six for 26 to top Karnataka’s best bowling performance chart.
For others, SP Jobanputra of Saurashtra knocked over seven wickets for 70 in 2007.

* Bharat Chipli and BW Rowland scored the highest partnership of 171 runs for the second wicket against Bengal  in 2005.

KR Gururaja Rao

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