Karnataka look to extend domination to one-dayers

Fancied hosts take on Andhra in Subbaiah Pillai opener

Karnataka look to extend domination to one-dayers

In one extraordiary season, Karnataka have established themselves as the most dominant domestic side in India. They have been consistent over the last five years without really managing to underscore their superiority, but in 2013-14 they fullfiled their potential, winning the Ranji Trophy and Irani Cup in the span of a fortnight.

But eight outright wins in this season made that travel to the zenith even more special. Few other teams can claim to have achieved such a feat in the long history of our domestic cricket. It is such a high and tough-to-live-up to standard, but defending champions Karnataka have perforce to do that when they enter the KS Subbaiah Pillai Trophy as the overwhelming favourite.

Their first opponent in the Souh Zone one-day tournament, beginning here on Thursday at the M Chinnaswamy stadium, is Andhra. R Vinay Kumar and his wards may not need to stretch themselves much against them, even considering the fact that the 50-over matches often offer an equal platform to the contestants.

What’s more challenging for them will be to play with the attitude of champions, ruthlessness of an all-conquering outfit. In that sense, it is a somewhat an unfamilair territory for Karnataka. Batting coach J Arun Kumar admitted it. “After winning the Ranji Trophy and Irani Cup, in a way, it has become imperative that we win the Subbaiah Pillai. We need to stick to the basics, should we get a qualification, we will get a bye and be in the quarters straightaway in the national tournament,” said Arun.
Skipper R Vinay Kumar too stressed on the need to be consistent instead of resting on the laurels. “Yes, we have won these tournaments (Ranji and Irani) but we are not looking at that. We need to take it match by match as the shorter format is tricky and any team can be dangerous. We need to be consistent,” said Vinay after the team’s training session here on Wednesday.

It is not a task beyond Karnataka as they have shown over the course of this season. They will miss the presence of Stuart Binny, away in Bangladesh with the Indian team, but they still have enough firepower in their batting and bowling departments to make other teams wary of them. Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, KL Rahul, who tallied more than 1000 runs in this Ranji season, CM Gautam and Ganesh Satish add muscle to their batting, and they could give some torrid time for bowlers on pitches that are expected to be the staunch allies of batsmen. Abhimanyu Mithun, the top-wicket taker for Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy, Vinay, and HS Sharath provide a sharp edge to their attack.

Having said that it will be naive to expect a cakewalk for Karnataka in the tournament. Teams such as Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad and Kerala can give the champions a run for their money, particularly in the 50-over format. With the likes of M Vijay, the promising Baba Aparajith, and the experienced duo of L Balaji and S Badrinath in their ranks, Tamil Nadu could be an explosive force, while Kerala can be the surprise package of the tournament.

Sujith Somasundar, the coach of Kerala, indicated as much. “We have a solid unit and Sanju (Samson) should be able to join us from the third game.
“Last year we did well and lost only to Karnataka, and we are confident of doing well this time too,” said Sujith.

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