Karnataka look to bounce back

Defending champs eye revival after Ranji debacle; to face Railways in opener

Karnataka look to bounce back

There is nothing as exciting as a comeback. The Karnataka senior cricket team, after seeing their proud dominance in the Ranji Trophy championship come to a disappointing end this season, will look for a fresh start and try to regain their lost touch when they begin their Vijay Hazare Trophy title defence against Railways at the Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Thursday.

The Vinay Kumar-led side, who emerged champions in the previous two editions, will aim for a hat-trick of titles but after the Ranji debacle, the hosts cannot afford to take the tournament lightly.

The BCCI restructured the tournament from an intra-zonal basis to a group format this year and the 27 teams are divided into four groups (Group A, B, C & D).

Karnataka are placed in Group B, alongside Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir, Railways, Haryana, Jharkhand and Gujarat. After the group stage matches, which is scheduled from December 10 to 18, top four teams each group enter the knockouts, which begin from December 23.

Uthappa to miss out

After missing major portion of the group phase of the Ranji Trophy, the availability of KL Rahul and Stuart Binny will give Karnataka the much needed boost. The defending champions though will miss the services of senior batsman Robin Uthappa, who was excluded from the squad due to a rib injury.

Speaking about the squad, skipper Vinay said: "We will miss Uthappa. He is like a pillar to the team. But we have good bench strength and I hope they come good. Also, Stuart and Rahul are back and that's a big boost to the side."

Vinay added that early exit from Ranji Trophy will not affect the team's confidence ahead of this tournament. "Motivation is always there. We are here to play good cricket. Even in Ranji, overall we played good game of cricket not the best I would say. This is a different ball game. We won the last two seasons and we want to defend it again," said Vinay.

Sadiq Kirmani and Anirudh Joshi, who were impressive in the Karnataka Premier League this year, have been included in the side and HS Sharath and Abhishek Reddy have been dropped.

Karnataka play four of their six matches here at the Chinnaswamy and Vinay hopes the team can cash in on the home advantage. Railways would look for a strong performance from skipper Karn Sharma and promising medium pacer Anureet Singh.

All eyes on Dhoni

In another Group B tie, Jharkhand will take on Jammu & Kashmir at the Alur Grounds (2) and all eyes will be on Indian limited over skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who returns to domestic cricket after eight years.

Dhoni will don the Jharkhand colours under skipper Varun Aaron and the swashbuckling batsman will be the star attraction of the contest, considering his match-winning abilities.

The squads(from): Karnataka: Vinay Kumar (captain), KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, Stuart Binny, CM Gautam, Shreyas Gopal, J Suchith, Abhimanyu Mithun, S Arvind, R Samarth, David Mathias, Sadiq Kirmani and Anirudh Joshi.

Railways: Karn Sharma (captain), Saurabh Wakalkar, Asad Pathan, Arindam Ghosh, Ashish Singh, Faiz Ahmed, Jonathan R, Mahesh Rawat, Cheluvaraj V, Ashish Yadav, Arnab Nandi, Avinash Yadav, Anureet Singh, Upadhaya KK, Akshat Pandey, Satinder Thakran.

Group A: Punjab, Mumbai, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Rajasthan, Services and Hyderabad

Group B: Karnataka, Railways, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala and Haryana

Group C: Odisha, Vidarbha, Delhi, Baroda, Andhra, Tripura and Maharashtra

Group D: Bengal, Goa, Himachal, Uttar Pradesh, Saurashtra, Madhya Pradesh

Note: Top two teams from each group will qualify for the knockouts. 

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