Karnataka look to ride on young blood

High on confidence, Uthappas men take on Maharashtra in their fourth match from today

But just before they embarked on Mission Ranji Trophy there was a veil of scepticism over this young Karnataka bunch’s ability to withstand the rigours of this tough competition.

The absence of known names like Deepak Chougoule, C Raghu and NC Aiyappa has played a big part in fuelling the suspicions and even in the latest list, which was announced on Saturday, there were only two 30-plus players, Sunil Joshi and B Akhil.

However, half-way through the league phase, this daring youthful side has displayed its mettle, leaping to the top of the table in Group B with 11 points from three games. Such a robust and confident show has not seen from any recent Karnataka side.

The most pleasing fact that it was the young legs, for a while in the company of Rahul Dravid, carried Karnataka around in vastly different conditions of Meerut, Delhi and Mysore, accumulating more confidence with each outing. Precisely, that power of youth makes Karnataka an overwhelming favourite against Maharashtra, languishing at the bottom of the table with just a point from two outings, when they meet at the Pune Club from Tuesday.

The first sign of the youth movement came in the opening encounter against Uttar Pradesh when Abhimanyu Mithun made the most sensational of debuts at Meerut.
The pacer’s brilliant spell, including a hat-trick was the driving force behind the State’s explosive beginning, while Manish Pandey’s awesome 194 underlined the significance of favouring youth. The State have also kept the momentum intact so far with two more strong shows against Delhi and Bengal. Three more youngsters joined the party in the game against Bengal in Mysore when KB Pawan, Amit Verma and CM Gautham smashed hundreds, and perhaps it is time to end that long-standing cry about the anemic look of barren stables in Karnataka.

Karnataka would have had more impressive standings on the table but for bad light and Delhi players’ delaying tactics in the second game at Roshanara Club grounds.  The game against Maharashtra will be another excellent chance for them to provide further evidence of their abilities, and thereby further strengthening Karnataka’s position in the group. The only jarring note so far has been skipper Robin Uthappa’s inability to convert the starts, preventing him from joining the list of centurions for Karnataka this season, and the Kodava lad will be eager to rectify that blip against Maharashtra. Maharashtra too are following the youth policy this season, and their skipper Harshad Khadiwale is a mere 20-year old, very close to the average age of the team itself. Unlike the Karnataka youngsters, the hosts’ colts have found it tough to match the heavyweights in the group, and it needed a gritty hundred from promising 23-year old Kedar Jhadav to save their faces against Saurashtra.
Their bowlers too don’t have much experience and that could be the decisive factor against a young but powerful Karnataka line-up. The Pune Club pitch is a rather unknown commodity and both the camps would like to bat first, trying to avoid batting on a last day surface. But all those extraneous calculations will count for nothing when these two youthful sides go at each other, Karnataka to assert their new-found supremacy, Maharashtra searching for a turnaround.


Teams from: KARNATAKA: Robin Uthappa (Capt), KB Pawan, Manish Pandey, Amit Verma, B Akhil, CM Gautam, Sunil Joshi, R Vinay Kumar, Ganesh Satish, A Mithun, S Aravind, Stuart Binny, Udit Patel, KP Appanna, Ryan Ninan.
MAHARASHTRA: Harshad Khadiwale (capt), Sangram Atitkar, Ankit Bawne, Ameya Shrikhande, Rohan Bhosale, Ranjit Chavan, Kiran Adhav, Azhar Ansari, Samad Fallah, Ganesh Gaikwad, Kedar Jhadav, Rohit Motwani, Jitendra Patil, Sajin Sureshnath, Digambar Wagmare.
Match: 9.30 am onwards

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