Karnataka eye good start

Karnataka eye good start

The last time Karnataka played Assam in a season opener, the game didn’t stay true to the script for the eight-time champions.

Beginning their campaign to defend the title against the minnows in the 2015-16 edition in Guwahati, Karnataka were expected to bag full points. However, the hosts, led by Gokul Sharma, showed great character and fight to earn three points. 

As Karnataka kick-start their campaign here at the SDNRW stadium from Saturday, the R Vinay Kumar captained side are once again up against Assam, a team that can no longer be considered an easy prey.

Karnataka, by experience from the last two seasons, would know the importance of starting well. A surprise draw against Assam two years ago was just the first of the many setbacks faced by Vinay’s men and they eventually bowed out in the group stage. The story was no different last year too as a win eluded Karnataka in the opening match of their campaign.

While the tricky Assam will not be pushovers, the inclement weather could also play spoilsport to Karnataka’s plans. Rains in the last couple of days have left the groundsmen busy and both the teams would be hoping to get a full game.

The last outing for Karnataka here at the SDNRW stadium turned out to be sweet one as they pulled off an outright victory against Odisha. A lot though has changed as far as the wicket is concerned. The pitch was completely re-laid and this encounter will be the first Ranji match on the new pitch.

“The earlier wicket wasn’t producing enough bounce and it was worn out. So we decided to re-lay the pitch,” said Prashanth Rao, assistant curator, Karnataka Stat Cricket Association. Having assisted Venkat, a curator from Chennai, in preparing the wicket for this tie, Prashanth is looking forward for an engaging action between bat and ball.

“There is no point in preparing wickets on which matches end in just two days. While the seamers will have the advantage on the first day, the cracks will open up to offer help for the spinners as the game progresses,” Prashanth explained.

Karnataka appear a balanced unit compared to their opponents. They would look for Mayank Agarwal and R Samarth to provide them a fine start while Mir Kaunain Abbas, who impressed at the number three position, will be aiming to lend solidity at the top. While they are expected to continue their tradition of starting with a three-pronged pace attack (Vinay, S Arvind and Abhimanyu Mithun), it will be interesting to see if they will be tempted to play a second spinner apart from K Gowtham.

“Looking at the conditions, we are mulling to play two spinners. We will take a final call tomorrow morning,” said coach P V Shashikanth. Leg-spinning all-rounder Shreyas Gopal could then get a look-in ahead of Abhishek Reddy or Pavan Deshpande.

Skipper Vinay missed the second half of Friday’s practice session but Shashikanth was upbeat about the fitness level of his players. “Vinay is fine and it’s just an acidity issue,” he assured.

Assam, following a fighting draw against Delhi that earned them a point, are looking to raise the bar. “Our strength is fast bowling. We have a good attack and I expect Abu Nechim, Krishna Das, Arup Das and Pritam Das to come good,” said coach Lalchand Rajput.

DH News Service

The squads: Karnataka: R Vinay Kumar (captain), R Samarth, Mayank Agarwal, Abhishek Reddy, Mir Kaunain Abbas, Pavan Deshpande, Stuart Binny, CM Gautam, K Gowtham, Shreyas Gopal, J Suchith, Abhimanyu Mithun, S Arvind, Ronit More, D Nischal, Sharath Srinivas, T Pradeep.

Assam: Gokul Sharma (captain), Wasiqur Rahman, Abu Nechim Ahmed, Krishna Das, Arup Das, Sarupam Purkayastha, Kunal Saikia, Rishav Das, Pallav Das, Sibsankar Roy, Pritam Das, Rahul Singh, Pritam Debnath, Tarjinder Singh, Sunzow Brahma.

Other fixtures: Group A: At Hyderabad: Hyderabad vs Uttar Pradesh.

Group B: At Nadiad: Gujarat vs Kerala; At Jaipur: Rajasthan vs Jharkhand; At Rajkot: Saurashtra vs Jammu & Kashmir.

Group C: At Vadodara: Baroda vs Andhra; At Indore: Madhya Pradesh vs Mumbai; At Chennai: Tamil Nadu vs Tripura.

Group D: At Raipur: Chhattisgarh vs Bengal; At Dharamsala: Himachal Pradesh vs Goa; At Chandigarh: Punjab vs Vidarbha.

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