No better time to deliver, believes Nair

No better time to deliver, believes Nair

 Karun Nair. (DH Photo)

The buzz at the Eden Gardens has been growing ever since Bengal sealed their Ranji Trophy semifinal ticket. A huge media continent, rarely seen in the nation’s premier domestic competition, had their eyes and cameras transfixed on the two teams training. The focus though was Karnataka’s KL Rahul.

Ever since it was confirmed the star opener would play the semifinal, much of the talk has been about him in the media here. A larger percentage of the ball boys and academy players were hovering around the Karnataka ‘nets’, hoping to shake hands with Rahul and India internationals Karun Nair and Manish Pandey.

So when Nair fronted up for the customary pre-match press conference, it was no surprise the first question was about ‘KL’. “Everyone's really happy that he is back. It's a positive sign and a big boost for Karnataka to have him back,” replied Nair. “For me also, to talk to him about strategies, any inputs that he will have, augurs well. It's a good headache (team selection) when you have your best players around. You're able to pick the best XI. We will be looking forward to do that. Really looking forward to his inputs and quality on the field.”

So far this Ranji Trophy, Karnataka have just one centurion in R Samarth with Devdutt Padikkal and KV Siddharth falling in the 90s. The batting has failed to fire in unison but Nair felt there’s no better stage to flourish than the semifinal. “As long as you're winning games it's okay for me. If you're finding ways to win the games then that's the most important thing. This is a big game. There's no better time to come and score your highest scores of the season.”

Bengal, going through a rebuilding phase, have had their fair share of problems but have managed to reach the semifinal. While the local media believes Karnataka are the favourites, given eight-time champions’ overall experience, Bengal coach Arun Lal refused to concede ground. “I think we are the favourites. We have momentum behind us, played some fabulous cricket. And we have got un-quantifiable heroes. Nobody knows about them. We are just getting to hear about them. Tomorrow they could be the finished products. We have 3-4 players who could go on to play for India within a year or so. The curve is going up.”

Lal also played down the hype surrounding Karnataka’s Big Three of Rahul, Nair and Pandey. “They are a champion side, there's no denying it. The fact that they are here having not played there 'A' game speaks volumes for their established domestic order. We generally back our strengths. It could be anybody there. It could be Virat Kohli batting there tomorrow. Naam se cricket hoti nahin hai na, maidan mein cricket hoti hai. (Big names don't matter, cricket is played on the field).”