New-look Karnataka eye strong start

New-look Karnataka eye strong start

The addition of K L Rahul will provide the much-needed experience and strength to Karnataka's batting in the all-India one-day tournament for the Vijay Hazare Trophy. DH Photo/ Srikanta Sharma R

With the exit of some seniors who possessed an envious wealth of experience, Karnataka will begin a new journey with a young but talented bunch of players when the Vijay Hazare Trophy gets underway here from Tuesday.

Placed in Group 'A', the Manish Pandey-led side takes on Hyderabad in their opening encounter of the 50-over tournament at the Alur 1 ground. The three-time champions will be without R Vinay Kumar, CM Gautam and Stuart Binny -- fine servants of Karnataka cricket -- as the trio moved out to ply its trade with different States.  

The Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy triumph under Pandey last season should give Karnataka good confidence. Seven from that side that were part of Karnataka's maiden T20 title are named in the current squad.    

Last season, Karnataka, who began as defending champions, endured a forgettable tournament. Poor start and rain combined to ensure their early exit. With only top five teams from Group A and B combined making the quarterfinals, Karnataka cannot afford any early slip-ups.     

"You need to start well. That's how you build momentum. But I feel there is no pressure on the players as they know their roles," coach Yere Goud told reporters on Monday. 

"Last season, the tournament started three days after the Karnataka Premier League and we didn't have much time to prepare. This time, we are ready. We started training from September 10. We played practice games and concentrated on match situations. It's an advantage that players are in good touch," Goud explained.     

Karnataka's solid batting unit, led by Pandey and the returning KL Rahul, is a threat for any team. In-form youngsters K V Siddharth and Devdutt Padikkal -- both uncapped in the format -- can be match-winners on their day. The line-up will only get stronger when Karun Nair returns after the first three games. The right-hander is part of the Board President's XI that plays South Africa before the three-match Test series. 

In the all-rounders' department, Karnataka are spoilt for choices. Shreyas Gopal, who has been a consistent performer across formats for the last three years, will be the first-choice with the gifted K Gowtham being the other all-rounder in the playing XI. On the bench, Karnataka can look to J Suchith, another handy player with both bat and ball. 

With no Vinay in the side, Abhimanyu Mithun leads the pace attack. The right-arm quick will share the new ball with the talented Prasidh Krishna while Ronit More, who was a revelation in the Ranji Trophy, could be the third fast-bowling option. 

"We will definitely miss Vinay and his never-say-die attitude. Players like Ronit and Prasidh will have to step up and take responsibility. This tournament will tell us where we stand in terms of our fast bowling," Goud said. 

In Hyderabad, the spotlight will be on captain Ambati Rayudu, who did a U-turn after announcing retirement two months ago. Hyderabad's strength lies in their batting with the likes of Akshath Reddy, B Sandeep and Tanmay Agarwal. In the bowling department, they will pin their hopes on India international Mohammed Siraj. 

Matches on Tuesday: Karnataka vs Hyderabad (at Alur 1). Mumbai vs Saurashtra (at Alur III). Andhra vs Chhattisgarh (at Alur II).

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