Karnataka future in safe hands

Notwithstanding the semi loss, Vinay's and Co can take a lot of positives

Karnataka future in safe hands

Karnataka, who had produced an  authoritative brand of cricket for most part of their campaign, were left  gutted after their five-run loss to Vidarbha in the Ranji Trophy semifinal. A fantastic run crashing had come to a disappointing end.

Ahead of the last four clash, a well-equipped Karnataka were rightly called the favourites. Better big match experience and reputation gave R Vinay Kumar's men the edge but following five days of absorbing contest, Karnataka were stunned by a fighting and a success-hungry Vidarbha, who reaped rewards for their fine bowling. However, unlike last season, Karnataka's journey this season was characterised by a  couple of concerns but a lot of positives to take away from.

On a seamer-friendly track at the Eden Gardens, it was time for the batsmen to show their adaptability. Karnataka's batting, led by Mayank Agarwal's staggering consistency, was the story of the season but it crumbled when it mattered the most.

"These (Agarwal) are the kinds of players who will take care of Karnataka cricket in the coming years. They have a great future and the talent to represent the country. But at the same time, they need to learn to perform in these kinds of matches. It's not just about the group stage games but it's about excelling under pressure," opined Vinay.

A stupendous show in the group stage meant that Karnataka were hardly put in a situation of crisis. In seven games before the semifinal, not once did Karnataka chase and in only one game, against Hyderabad, Vinay's men were made to work hard for a 59-run win. Hence the difficulty in pacing their innings while in pursuit of a tricky 198-run target on a tough fourth-day surface was evident.

Though it got overshadowed by their huge margin of victories, the Karnataka bowling, for more than once, let their opposition to stage a comeback after rattling them in the first innings. In their second game, they allowed Hyderabad to come close to the 380-run target, from a shaky position of 231/7. The last three batsmen mustered 89 runs. In the semifinal, Vidarbha were in trouble at 245/8 in the second innings. With a lead of just 129 runs, Vidarbha were staring down the barrel but Aditya Sarwate slammed a gutsy 55 that opened up the contest.    

These minor flaws hurt Karnataka but they have plenty to look forward to when the season continues with the Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophies. His horrendous start notwithstanding, opener Agarwal (1160) scripted an inspirational story to be the highest run-getter of the season. Karnataka posted four 500-plus totals thanks to a successful opening combination of Agarwal and R Samarth. "Top order batsmen getting scores was a positive and it was a rare sight for me as a captain to see the team put up so many 500-plus totals. The fighting spirit of the lower-order was also a big take away," said Vinay.

The skipper defied age and proved he is still the best man to lead Karnataka while Karun Nair re-established his penchant to deliver in crunch matches. K Gowtham continued to impress and won matches single-handedly to finish with 34 wickets. He was well backed up by Shreyas Gopal, who shone with both bat and ball. It helped Karnataka that there was not much chopping and changing in the team. Stuart Binny fired with both bat and ball while Abhimanyu Mithun was back being an attacking and positive-minded bowler.

Keeping the future in mind, Karnataka must look to build a stronger bench strength in certain positions. While a back-up for C M Gautam – who just scored two half-centuries – is needed, it is time, at least in the longer-format, to look beyond S Arvind, who looked jaded.

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