Rain threat looms large in semis

Karnataka skipper Manish Pandey, who has been in sizzling form, will be eyeing another strong knock in the semifinals against Chhattisgarh on Wednesday. DH PHOTO/ SRIKANTA SHARMA R

It isn’t dire enough to dial 'Orange' in Bengaluru yet but what the inclement weather will almost certainly do is disrupt the Vijay Hazare Trophy semifinal between Karnataka and Chattisgarh at the M Chinnaswamy stadium here on Wednesday.

Thankfully, the much-lauded sub-air system will ensure some action should the rain at all let up. More good news is in store for those keeping abreast with Manish Pandey and Co as Karnataka will qualify for the final in the event of abandonment since they have notched more wins than Chhattisgarh in the league stage. 

In winning seven out of eight contests as opposed to Chhattisgarh’s five in eight, Karnataka have ensured they will be on the favourable end of an ill-received rule which has led to the unceremonious exit of Punjab and Mumbai following their respective rain-hit quarterfinal ties.

Highlighted in the playing conditions is a clause which benefits the team with the most number of wins in the group stage. The rule, if/when it comes into effect, will also favour Tamil Nadu as they line-up for their semifinal contest against Gujarat the same day. 

Since the game will be held at the Just Cricket Academy, which can’t take a heavy shower, the likelihood of abandonment is high. In that case, Tamil Nadu with an all-win record in nine Group C games will oust Gujarat, who finished second behind them in the same group with eight wins.

While the TN-Gujarat contest looks destined for failure in the outskirts of the city, the last-four clash in the Central Business District promises some entertainment. More so now since Mayank Agarwal has returned to the squad and is presumably in the playing XI. 

Living the highs of international cricket after a double-century and a century in four innings for India against South Africa, Agarwal has flown down from Ranchi -- venue of the third Test -- to replace Abhishek Reddy. 

With Agarwal being a shoo-in, the only piece that can be left out is Karun Nair, owning to his poor form. Rohan Kadam, who would have been left out in most other occasions, made a good case for himself with a stylish half-century in their win over Puducherry in the quarterfinals.

Pandey might be tempted to tweak the bowling line-up to accommodate Nair and Kadam, leaving out Pravin Dubey, but he will be aware that the leg-spinner has bowled better than both K Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal in the last couple of games. 

On the pace front, there will be one change. Ronit More is likely to come in place of an injured Prasidh Krishna, who suffered a side strain in the quarterfinals.

As for Chhattisgarh, there aren’t many recognisable names in Harpreet Singh’s squad to imply a close contest, but they have won against bigger teams in the Elite group. And with cricket being a funny game or some such, Karnataka should guard against complacency if they are to make it to their fourth final.

Teams (from): Karnataka: Manish Pandey (capt), KL Rahul, Devdutt Padikkal, Karun Nair, Pravin Dubey, Rohan Kadam, Mayank Agarwal, K Gowtham, Suchith J, A Mithun, Prateek Jain, Ronit More, Sharath BR (wk), Shreyas Gopal, V Koushik. 

Chhattisgarh: Jiwanjot Singh, Shashank Chandraker, Ashutosh Singh, Harpreet Singh (capt), Amandeep Khare, Shashank Singh, Ajay Mandal, Lavin Coster (wk), Sumit Ruikar, Pankaj Rao, Puneet Datey, Veer Pratap Singh, Rishabh Tiwari, Manoj Singh, Shakeeb Ahmed, Shubham Singh.

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