Opening duo paving way for Karnataka

Opening duo paving way for Karnataka

Their thorough domination of their opponents has earned Karnataka the tag of 'form team' in this Ranji Trophy season. Their innings and 20-run victory against the mighty Mumbai in the quarterfinals was their third win by an innings. Even in their two drawn games, the eight-time champions bagged three points each thanks to huge first innings totals.

The credit, for consistently laying a strong foundation for a big score, goes to the openers. Mayank Agarwal and R Samarth have been in great touch. It has been a breakthrough tournament for Agarwal, who has racked up 1142 runs to be the top run-getter. The classy Samarth has 643 runs under his belt to be seventh on the list. A good start is any team's first objective and the right-handed duo's performance has been staggering.

Apart from the two 250 plus stands, Agarwal and Samarth have put up a hundred and a 50-plus partnership so far. These numbers are in stark contrast to last season's record. The combination had just one partnership above fifty runs from 10 innings in the 2016-17 season when R Vinay Kumar's men crashed out in the quarterfinals.

There hasn't been constant shuffling with the opening pair and that has produced good results. "It's very important to give players the comfort zone. If we keep changing the combination, then doubts start creeping in their minds," felt Vinay.

Only in two matches against Hyderabad and Delhi did Karnataka go in with a different pair. Both the games saw senior batsman K L Rahul, back from national duty, open with Samarth. "When Rahul came back, we sent Mayank at number 3. But then we made sure we explain to him why the decision was taken and he understood that. We give freedom to our players but at the same time, we make them understand our decisions. In a way, our planning has been good," Vinay explained.

Agarwal's poor start, which saw him get a pair in the game against Hyderabad, was not ideal for Karnataka. But the management kept its faith in him. "See he is the main player for us and he has been playing for many years. Sometimes it (poor form) happens. When I go wicket-less for a while, I start doubting myself. As a captain, it's important for me to back him. I have always told that whoever comes into the team he will get chances and not just one or two games. A player should be given a long rope," he said.

While Agarwal is naturally attacking, Samarth is a composed customer who finds boundaries with strokes of sweet timing. Coach P V Shashikanth said the batsmen complemented each other well. "We checked the scorecards of the two seasons (2013-14, 2014-15) when we won the title and it was evident that we needed a strong start. Mayank would give us explosive starts but now he has evolved as an opener. Samarth is a highly positive player and we need someone like that at the top," he said.

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