The fifth edition of the Karnataka Premier League, which gets underway in Hubballi at the Rajnagar Stadium from Saturday, has got the essential star presence but not unlike some of previous editions, logistical issues owing to different reasons have thrown up a big challenge to the organisers.
Due to the ongoing Cauvery issue, the first phase of the league, which was earlier scheduled to be held in Mysuru was shifted to Hubballi three days ago, with the start postponed by a day. While the first phase will be held from September 17-26, the second leg, including the semifinals and final, will be held in Mysuru from September 28-October 2.
While the teams had to cope up with last-minute changes, weather also stands as a possible threat to the smooth conduct of the league. Heavy rain since Wednesday has hit teams’ practice sessions in Hubballi and with the weather predicted to remain the same till the weekend, the initial matches are likely to be affected. Incessant rain had forced Karnataka State Cricket Association to shift matches scheduled in Manipal to Bengaluru during the second edition of the league in 2010.
However, players and fans alike would be hoping that cricketing action takes most of the attention when hosts Hubli Tigers face Namma Shivamogga in the opening encounter. The day’s second match will be played between Mysore Warriors and Mangalore United while defending champions Bijapur Bulls will lock horns with Belagavi Panthers in the third and final match of the day.
With the likes of Vinay Kumar (Belgavi Panthers), Robin Uthappa (Bijapur Bulls), Mayank Agarwal (Belagavi Panthers), Manish Pandey (Mysuru Warriors), Karun Nair (Mangalore United) and Stuart Binny (Namma Shivvamogga) available for the league, the stage looks set for some exciting contests. Fans though will miss the in-form India batsman KL Rahul, who will not be a part of the tournament due to his national commitments. Pandey and Nair, currently representing India ‘A’ in a four-day first-class game against Australia ‘A’, will join their teams after the end of the tour on Sunday.
Medium pacer Prateek Jain (Bellary Tuskers) and R Jonathan (Warriors), will look to step up to the expectations after the duo attracted the joint highest bid (Rs 3.5 lakh) at players’ auction. Pacer Prasidh Krishna, leg-spinning all-rounder Kishore Kamat and left-hand batsman Arjun Hoysala (Warriors) will be among the many eager to attract the selectors’ attention ahead of the domestic season.
Holders Bulls will bank on the experience of Uthappa, Abhimanyu Mithun and R Samarth in their title defence. Pandey and left-arm spinner J Suchith will lead the charge for Warriors, who have one of the most balanced sides in the league.