Nair to lead Karnataka; Shrijith, Darshan new faces

Nair to lead Karnataka; Shrijith, Darshan new faces

Karnataka captain Karun Nair

Wicketkeeper-batsman Shrijith KL and bowling all-rounder Darshan MB were the two new faces in Karnataka's 20-member squad announced on Sunday for the group stage of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, starting January 10. 

With regular skipper Manish Pandey ruled out of the T20 tournament due to a tennis elbow, senior batsman Karun Nair was expectedly named captain of the squad. Left-hand middle-order batsman Pavan Deshpande will be Nair's deputy. 

The core group (14 players) has been retained from the previous edition of the meet. Young wicketkeeper-batsman Luvnith Sisodia, who made his T20 debut in the 2018-19 season and was part of the squad last time, is the only noticeable omission. 

Middle-order batsman KV Siddharth and pacer Prasidh Krishna, who missed out last time due to injuries, are back in the squad. 

Talking about the squad, chairman of the senior selection committee Fazal Khaleel said Karnataka's composition should help them do well in the preliminary phase despite the absence of KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, who are currently in the Indian team at the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia. 

"If we didn't know what it was to win, then probably I would have said their (Rahul and Mayank) absence is a problem," Khaleel told DH. "It gives these youngsters exposure. It's happened in the past. When the Karuns, Mayanks, and KLs came into the side, they were also short of experience. It's a good problem to have, where our bench strength is strong. But again, we are more or else the same squad that was picked for the previous edition. We are hoping for KL and Mayank to fill up the squad in the knockouts and further boost our chances."  

Khaleel said Shrijith and Darshan made the squad based on their good show in the recently concluded YSR memorial tournament and KSCA T20 League. 

"They were picked on the weightage of their performance in the previous two tournaments. Personally, I like to give a player a chance when his form is good. That's the time to blood youngsters. No point earmarking him for another tournament. These boys have done well in age-group cricket and come up the ladder," he explained.   

Defending champions Karnataka will face Jammu & Kashmir in the opener on January 10. 

Squad: Karun Nair (captain), Devdutt Padikkal, Rohan Kadam, Pavan Deshpande (vice-captain), KV Siddharth, Shrijith KL (wk), Sharath BR (wk), Anirudha Joshi, Shreyas Gopal, K Gowtham, J Suchith, Pravin Dubey, A Mithun, Prasidh Krishna, Prateek Jain, V Koushik, Ronit More, Darshan MB, Manoj Bhandage, Shubhang Hegde. Coach: Yere Goud; Bowling coach: S Arvind.