Karnataka-Mumbai in clash of titans

Vinay's men hold slight advantage in quarterfinal tie

Karnataka-Mumbai in clash of titans

Any clash involving Mumbai and Karnataka is a big occasion and if that happens to be a knockout game then it has to be a marquee event of the tournament.

Excitement level soared high among cricket fans of the country when the two domestic giants were confirmed to meet in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal. These are two teams with great reputations and when they face each other here at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium from Thursday, another chapter will be added to India's domestic cricket's rivalries.

Like every season, Karnataka and Mumbai began their respective campaigns with the favourites' tag attached to them. But their progress to the last eight stage has been contrasting. Resembling a well-oiled machine, R Vinay Kumar's men cruised into the quarters without suffering a single defeat. Mumbai has endured a rocky journey and they are still searching for their one big comprehensive performance.

For a team in fantastic form, Karnataka's challenge would be to maintain their high-quality game in a crunch match as this. Dwelling too much on the glorious past can lead to complacency. "Whatever happened till now is behind us. We have got to take it one game at a time. If we win the first few sessions, that can set the tone for the match," said Vinay on Wednesday.

Having aced the group-stage (four wins and two draws) with a consistently brilliant show, Karnataka appear like a class of toppers. The batsmen have scored huge runs and bailed team out of tough situations, the bowlers have extracted wickets on flat surfaces and won contests with ruthless aggression and the fielding's graph has been on the upwards.

If there is Mayank Agarwal (1064 runs), the story of the season, and the ever-composed R Samarth (603 runs) to start the proceedings with the bat, D Nischal's promising start to first-class cricket adds extra solidity to the top-order.

Binny doubtful

While Karun Nair (413 runs) is the key man in the middle-order, Stuart Binny, whose consistency has helped Karnataka amass huge totals, is a doubtful starter. The experienced all-rounder was seen limping and skipped Wednesday's practice session. The management brushed it off as a slight niggle but should Binny miss the tie, Pavan Deshpande could come in as an extra batsman.

Vinay said that Karnataka wouldn't experiment much in the bowling department. "We will go with three seamers. It has always worked for us. Looks like there is 4mm grass on the wicket and there will be help for bowlers up front," he said.

In recent times, Mumbai has embraced a notoriously deceptive nature. Lack of stars and shaky starts to their campaigns cast huge doubts on their title-winning ability. But their trademark style has been to rise when it matters the most. That the two sides have entirely different ways to approach a contest and that makes the battle all the more interesting. To Karnataka's all-out offence, Mumbai has the ability to offer a rock solid defence.

Siddesh Lad (613), their crisis man, will be one of the threats for Karnataka while the red-hot Prithvi Shaw (521) could steal the show. Dhawal Kulkrani (19) leads a beleaguered bowling unit but it is the perfect opportunity for a youngster to step up.

A balanced Karnataka hold a slight edge but Mumbai, most obviously, cannot be underestimated.

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