Karnataka eye double glory

IPL auction may steal spotlight away from clash against RoI

Karnataka eye double glory

The season-ending Irani Cup tie between Ranji Trophy champions Karnataka and the Rest of India will be played under the shadow of the Indian Premier League Player Auction where most of the members from either side are set to go under the hammer midway through the five-day affair.

While the match begins on Sunday, the auctions are scheduled on February 12 and (if required) 13. And much as players would want us believe, it’s difficult to completely take one’s mind off the proceedings at a five-star hotel which is not too far away from the M Chinnaswamy stadium. After all, it’s a matter of mega bucks.

Truth be told, the name and fame one earns with one good stint in IPL will take years of toil in domestic cricket and there are many examples to boot. Manish Pandey, a prolific run-getter for Karnataka and South Zone in first-class games, is still remembered as the first Indian to score an IPL hundred while the hard-hitting Mayank Agarwal was a household name even before he made his Ranji debut this season.
For majority from both sides, the IPL contracts will be playing on their minds but many of them also realise that a good performance here could potentially put them in reckoning for the national squad as the Sandeep Patil-chaired selection committee will pick the India squads for the forthcoming Asia Cup and the World T20 in Bangladesh during the course of the Irani encounter.

With off-spinner R Ashwin making little impact in the shorter version, RoI skipper Harbhajan Singh will be monitored closely. His 23 scalps in five matches this Ranji season following his fine show in Mumbai Indians’ triumphant campaign in IPL-6 and the Champions League T20, are sure to add weight should he come up with another inspiring show here. Likewise, Gautam Gambhir, too, gets another chance to keep himself in the selectors’ radar. The left-hander hasn’t set the turf on fire during his exile from the national side but with two first-class centuries in the last four months, he has shown the fire within is still buring bright.

Season’s top-run getter Kedar Jadhav of Maharashtra would look to make a strong case for himself in the middle-order as would Punjab’s Mandeep Singh. Among pacers Ashok Dinda will be keen to re-establish his credentials while for young guns Jiwanjot Singh, Ankit Bawne, Baba Aparjith and Anureet Singh it’s a stage to reaffirm their promise.

There will be many in the home camp that will be hoping to catch the selectors’ attention, starting with skipper R Vinay Kumar. A crafty bowler, the right-arm paceman who played a key role in Karnataka’s victorious run will be eyeing a return to the national squad. His pace partner A Mithun too has had a good season with 41 wickets but it’s the batsmen -- Manish Pandey and KL Rahul --  and all-rounder Stuart Binny who will be under special watch. Binny, part of the India one-day squad in New Zealand, played just one match and got no more than an over to prove his worth but a good outing here should keep him in the scheme of things. Pandey, an attacking middle-order batsman and an excellent fielder, is ready to do the job at the highest level and he may be just one big knock away from making the cut.

Rahul’s class was all too evident during his first full season when he gathered over 1000 runs, only the second Karnataka batsman to do so after Vijay Bharadwaj, and while he may still be some distance away from making the big leap, a good score will firmly put him among the fringe.

Not many from this Karnataka squad have been part of an Irani squad and that itself should be a big incentive for them to look forward to the Cup that they won last in 1998-99 under Venkatesh Prasad. With Binny and a fit-again paceman HS Sharath back in the squad there will be some tweaking in the hosts’ 11 that played the Ranji final. While Sharath will take S Arvind’s place, it remains to be seen who among Ganesh Satish and Amit Verma makes way for Binny.

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