Battle of nerves set to unfold

Battle of nerves set to unfold

Ranji Trophy: Karnataka hold the edge but Mumbai will not be easy prey in the final

Battle of nerves set to unfold

The odd nervous laugh and the occasional look of tense uneasiness could have been put down to inevitable nerves on the eve of what to a majority of the playing eleven will be the most important match of their careers, but even close scrutiny revealed little out of the ordinary at the Gangotri Glades.

Several key members have, in the lead-up to the Ranji Trophy final against Mumbai beginning on Monday, stressed the importance of treating the title clash as ‘just another match’. The temptation to dismiss it as a cliché was quite overwhelming, but Sunday’s training session reiterated the spunk and professionalism of a Karnataka outfit that has taken the country by storm over the last ten weeks.

What was most obvious about Karnataka’s preparations for the five-day title clash against the masters of Ranji finals was the air of quiet self-confidence permeating through the ranks. It’s a self-confidence arising from the refreshingly entertaining and aggressive brand of cricket they have played all season long, helped by a clutch of outstanding performances from all-comers in a heartening show of depth and team unity.
Robin Uthappa and his men aren’t unaware that unless they are on top of their games over the next five days, they will be ruthlessly punished by Mumbai. Indian domestic cricket’s undisputed kings have won the Ranji Trophy 38 times out of 42 final appearances. It’s a mind-boggling statistic, an achievement that puts Mumbai’s fortitude and mental toughness in perspective. There’s something about finals that rouses the Mumbaikars; their indifferent form of this season will mean nothing when Wasim Jaffer walks out for the toss with Uthappa on the morrow.

It will be an interesting toss, too. The primary reason for the final moving to Mysore has been the desire to offer Karnataka’s in-form and incisive pace trio with the best possible conditions in which to ply its trade. The 103-wicket club of R Vinay Kumar, the ultra-impressive A Mithun and S Arvind will be licking its lips in anticipation at the prospect of having a go at Mumbai on a greenish, hard surface with a txinge of moisture retained primarily because the sun has spent much of the last two days hidden behind a thick cloud cover.

The toss will not necessarily be decisive because this is a five-day contest and there is time to recover from early setbacks, but early momentum and grabbing the initiative from the off will be massive. Especially for a young side, it will be imperative to get on top of the opposition early on, though throughout the season, Karnataka have shown that they are equally adept at bouncing back when pushed to a corner.

Needless to say, Rahul Dravid’s unavailability has left a huge lacuna in the middle-order from a purely batting perspective, but while Karnataka know what there are missing – both in terms of batting and in leadership and inspirational skills -- they are determined to not allow their captain’s absence to bog them down. Stuart Binny ought to return to the eleven, but the onus will be on the likes of the form quartet of the season – the irrepressible Manish Pandey, the obdurate KB Pawan, the stylish Ganesh Satish and the left-handed Amit Verma – to step up to the plate one more, decisive, time.
This will be as good an occasion as any for Uthappa, the lone top-order bat yet to touch three-figures, to set the record straight. Mumbai don’t have the same potency in the bowling attack as Karnataka, but in Ajit Agarkar, the returning Dhawal Kulkarni and Aavishkar Salvi, they have a more than handy trio that will keep the Karnataka batsmen honest.

Even though they have found various contributors are different stages, Mumbai are a top-heavy batting line-up, relying greatly on the country’s highest run-getter this season, Ajinkya Rahane (791), skipper Jaffer (627) -- who asserted he would open the innings – and Sahil Kukreja (588). A plethora of all-rounders shore up the lower middle-order, a soft underbelly that the pace trio and Sunil Joshi will seek to feed upon.
DH News Service

Karnataka and Mumbai in Ranji Trophy finals  
* Ranji titles won: Mumbai (38 in 42 finals), Delhi (7), Karnataka (6 in 11 finals), Baroda (5), Holkar (4), Tamil  Nadu (2), Bengal (2), Hyderabad (2), Maharashtra (2), Railways (2),  Haryana (1), Nawanagar (1), Punjab (1), Western India (1), Uttar  Pradesh (1).
* Highest innings total:
For Karnataka: 705 vs Delhi at New Delhi, 24-Mar-1982.
For Mumbai: 764 vs Holkar at Mumbai, 04-Mar-1945.
* Lowest innings total:
For Karnataka 68 vs Mumbai at Mumbai on 07-Mar-1942.  Lost by Inns & 281 runs
For Mumbai 113 vs Tamil Nadu at Chennai on 18-Apr-1973. 
* Highest individual score:
For Karnataka: 247 by GR Vishwanath vs UP  at Mohan Nagar, 04-Apr-1978. For Mumbai: 278 by VM Merchant vs Holkar at Mumbai, 04-Mar-1945
* Highest partnership:
For Karnataka 262 (3rd) – Vijay Bharadwaj/Rahul Dravid vs Tamil Nadu at Chennai, 1995-96
For Mumbai 297 (3rd) – G Parkar/AV Mankad vs. Delhi at Mumbai, 1980-81
* Best bowling in an innings:
For Karnataka 6-123 by EAS Prasanna vs  Mumbai at Mumbai, 29-Mar-1975.
For Mumbai 8-40 by HJ Vajifdar vs Northern India at Mumbai, 09-Mar-1945
* Best bowling in a match:
For Karnataka: 12-81 by Bhagwat  Chandrasekhar vs Uttar Pradesh at Mohan Nagar, 04-Apr-1978.
For Mumbai 13-34 by P K Shivalkar vs Tamil Nadu at Chennai, 18-Apr-1973
K R Gururaja Rao

Karnataka: Robin Uthappa (capt), KB Pawan, Ganesh Satish, Amit Verma, Manish Pandey, Stuart Binny, CM Gautam, R Vinay Kumar, Sunil Joshi, A Mithun, S Arvind, B Akhil, KP Appanna, Udit Patel, Aditya Sagar.
Mumbai: Wasim Jaffer (capt), Sahil Kukreja, Ajinkya Rahane, Omkar Khanvilkar, Abhishek Nayar, Ajit Agarkar, Ramesh Powar, Iqbal Abdulla, Vinayak Samant, Dhawal Kulkarni, Aavishkar Salva, Usman Malvi, Pragul Waghela, Prashant Naik, Sushant Marathe.
Umpires: Amiesh Saheba (Gujarat) and Sanjay Hazare (Baroda). Third umpire: S Ravi (Tamil Nadu). Match referee: S Ramesh (Kerala).