Ranji Trophy: Karnataka eye full set of points

Karnataka eye full set of points

K Gowtham's return couldn't have come a better time for Karnataka, who take on Railways in a crucial Ranji Trophy game from Monday. DH FILE PHOTO

As the Republic Day spirit wanes and rousing cries from protests continue to thaw the winter air in a city so troubled, Karnataka and Railways will be ensconced at the quiet confines of the Karnail Singh stadium in the heart of New Delhi with an eye on renewing their muted campaign in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season. 

Karnataka, placed seventh on the cross pool table with 17 points, arrived in the nation’s capital a couple of days ago to get in on the weather. In conditions where even the strong-willed steer away from catching drills, Railways would naturally assume the position of ‘advantage’, this being their home ground. But since this opposition isn’t unfamiliar to succeeding away from home, Railways will have to rely on extended passages of stainless cricket to come away with more than a lesson.

Their record thus far reads 13 points from six games with three losses (11th in the cross pool). Their sole win, and a good one this was, came against Mumbai. But that victory didn’t stoke the campaign as much as it did quickly turn into a fine moment from a distant past. In three games thereafter, Railways have suffered two losses against Baroda and Tamil Nadu.  

Arindam Ghosh’s men have repeatedly relied on a lot to go very right, essentially a fragile batting unit taped to survival and the bowlers - namely pacers T Pradeep (21 wickets), Himanshu Sangwan (26 wickets) and Amit Mishra (21 wickets) - doing more than demanded. In a nutshell, none from their playing eleven can afford to have an off day. 

That said, Karnataka - the eight-time champions who come into this Ranji season with recently acquired titles in Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali trophies - haven’t looked all that impermeable. While they are known to be poor starters historically, this season’s bugbear is in the form of putting up indifferent displays (read complacent) against lesser oppositions.

While they staged inspirational wins against Tamil Nadu and Mumbai, they weren’t able to crack the Saurashtra riddle, again. Then there were the indifferent performances against Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.

Excuses offered have vacillated between lending players to national duty and losing some to injury or a combination. While accurate, it has been the situation long enough for them to strategise better, bolster the bench… not use the same as a crutch.

They can’t even afford to do so this time around with Karun Nair and K Gowtham back in the side. Nair, who missed the previous game for his wedding, returns as skipper, taking back the position from Shreyas Gopal, who might not even feature in the playing eleven on the morrow, and Gowtham resumes after missing four games to a hairline fracture on his feet. 

In a nutshell, it’s Karnataka’s game to lose. 

Teams (from): Karnataka: Karun Nair (capt), Devdutt Padikkal, R Samarth, Rohan Kadam, Pavan Deshpande, Shreyas Gopal, Sharath Srinivas, BR Sharath (wk), A Mithun, V Koushik, Ronit More, Prateek Jain, KV Siddharth, Pravin Dubey, K Gowtham.

Railways: Arindam Ghosh (capt), Nitin Bhile (wk), Avinash Yadav, Mrunal Devdhar, Dinesh Mor, Harsh Tyagi, Mangal Mahrour, Amit Mishra, T Pradeep, Pratham Singh, Vikrant Rajput, Himanshu Sangwan, Shivendra Singh, Karan Thakur, Navneet Virk.