K'taka crowned Ranji champs

Team reflects cosmopolitan outlook

K'taka crowned Ranji champs

When Karnataka won the Ranji Trophy the last time in 1998-99 by beating Madhya Pradesh in Bangalore, it had a distinct “local” flavour to it.

On Sunday, things were quite different as Karnataka regained the trophy with an emphatic seven-wicket win over Maharashtra at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here. 

After bowling out Maharashtra for 366 in their second innings, Karnataka hit the required 157 runs needed with ease to register their seventh title triumph.

As Karun Nair, a Malayali born in Rajasthan, brought up the winning runs to signal victory, he had Manish Pandey, born in Uttarakhand, at the non-striker’s end, symbolising the transformation of the State capital Bangalore into a completely cosmopolitan city over the last 15 years. Like the demography of the Garden City, the present Karnataka team is also a melting pot of various backgrounds, cultures and languages. It’s a remarkable mix of people from South and North of India.

Wicket-keeper C M Gautam traces his roots to Tamil Nadu but is a quintessential Bangalorean. Newbie Shreyas Gopal, too, speaks Tamil at home, as does veteran paceman 

S Arvind. Amit Verma’s parents are from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh while Abhimanyu Mithun’s parents are Telugu. 

Stuart Binny, who joined in the team’s celebrations on Sunday after returning from New Zealand, is an Anglo-Indian and Robin Uthappa is born to a Kodava father and a Malayali mother. As their surnames suggest, Kunal Kapoor is a Punjabi and Mayank Agarwal a Rajasthani.  

You can hear the players converse in English, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam and sometimes in Kodava and Tulu though Kannada remains the common link between all of them. 

“We mostly talk in Kannada, especially when on the field,” said Gautam. “But then different mother tongues have never been an issue for us. It doesn’t even occur to us that someone comes from north or speaks a different language. Plus, most of us were born in Bangalore and others have settled down here for a long time. That bond is really strong,” he reasoned.      

Indeed, the different mother tongues and socio-economic backgrounds haven’t come in the way of the team’s togetherness. Skipper R Vinay Kumar is only the second captain from outside Bangalore to win the Ranji Trophy after Sunil Joshi and his rise from the dusty streets of Davangere, where his father once drove an autorickshaw for a living, is equally fascinating. Besides Vinay, there are K L Rahul (Mangalore), H S Sharath (Hosagavi in Mandya), R Samarth (Mysore) and K P Appanna (Kodagu), who have broken the monopoly of Bangalore boys in the squad. A triumph for team work, needless to say.

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