Good start but chinks are obvious

Karun Nair's form is a cause of concern

Karnataka have made a flying start to the season, winning the Vijay Hazare Trophy and successfully defending the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy, but two matches into the Ranji Trophy they have three serious issues to address failing which their quest for a treble could be seriously jeopardised.

The continued poor form of skipper Karun Nair, a wobbly middle-order, which has struggled to match the standards the stars set not too long ago, and the lack of experience in back-up pacers are slowly piling up the headaches for the team management. Stirring performances from star acts K L Rahul, Manish Pandey and K Gowtham and teenage sensation Devdutt Padikkal masked those negatives in the preceding limited-over tournaments but with Rahul, Pandey and Mayank Agarwal set to miss most of the Ranji Trophy campaign, the eight-time champions really need to find solutions soon.

Firstly, the poor run of Nair who simply looks shorn of confidence. In the previous Ranji Trophy season, India’s only other Test triple centurion apart from Virender Sehwag, mustered a mere 224 runs in 10 innings with a highest score of 63, averaging 24.88. The terrible form has extended this season too. In Vijay Hazare Trophy the 28-year-old managed a mere 66 runs in six innings and in the Syed Mushtaq Ali, he posted 203 runs in 12 outings. In the three Ranji Trophy innings so far, his score reads 8, 5 and 13.

The match against Uttar Pradesh was a perfect occasion for him to try and spend some time in the middle but he played a rank poor shot, pulling straight into the hands of the deep fielder — an age-old trap. It was a shot he could have totally avoided but the mounting pressure forced him into the error. Teams generally love captains leading from the front; the poor form of the leader often leaving everyone in a tight spot.

Bowling coach S Arvind, speaking to the media after the drawn encounter against UP, agreed Nair’s lean patch is a concern but backed him to come good soon. “We understand players have a bad patch. It may continue for one or two seasons. We need to back the players. He is the senior pro and we need to back him. In the coming matches we are hoping he hits form.”

Secondly, the wobbly middle order. Samarth has been struggling for form since last season — he scored 168 in 13 innings of previous Ranji Trophy — while Abhishek Reddy and BR Sharath are taking time to find their feet.

“Guys coming back into the team, they’ll be under pressure. We address them in the nets. It’s unfortunate how they got out. They didn’t play well. I am confident they’ll do well in the coming matches,” was Arvind’s answer to this trouble.

Lastly, the lack of depth in pace bowling department. Leader of the attack Abhimanyu Mithun has found a new gear this season and Ronit More has looked good but Davis Mathias, returning from injury, is yet to hit the right notes. Prasidh Krishna hasn’t recovered from injury and with Mithun himself returning from a back spasm, Karnataka will be hoping the bench strength steps up.

“We have a good bunch of pacers,” said Arvind. “David Mathias is doing well. He has come from injury and it’s bound to happen that whoever comes back from an injury, he takes one or two matches to get into the groove. Right now in the second innings he has bowled well. He’ll carry over that confidence.”

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