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Ranji Trophy: Revenge on Karnataka's mind

Karnataka need to be at their best against the tenacious two-time champions Vidarbha in the semifinals.
Last Updated 22 February 2024, 15:19 IST

Nagpur: The theory that was floated around when Karnataka failed to push for an outright victory against Chandigarh in their final group game of the Ranji Trophy was that they wanted to avoid their nemesis Saurashtra in the quarterfinals. It was perceived that they were content on playing Vidarbha, against whom they have a good head to head record.

Although skipper Mayank Agarwal rubbished the theory saying they were happy playing any opposition while blaming the draw against Chandigarh on niggles his tired bowlers carried in a gruelling season when players were forced to compete in seven games in just 46 days, they wouldn't be unhappy with what they have got — a last-eight clash against Vidarbha at the old VCA Stadium in Civil Lines starting here from Friday.

Vidarbha, however, are no pushovers and Karnataka, who have oscillated from the brilliant to the ordinary, need to be at their best against the tenacious two-time champions who sensationally beat them by five runs in the semifinal of the 2017-18 edition.

Agarwal and fellow opening batter R Samarth were part of the contest at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata when Karnataka, despite bowling out Vidarbha out for 185 runs and then taking a 116-run first-innings lead, spectacularly imploded in the second innings to lose the game that had then skipper R Vinay Kumar seething in anger.

“That defeat is still fresh in our minds and guys like Mayank and Samarth haven’t really forgotten it,” Karnataka coach PV Shashikanth told DH following a practice session on Thursday. “Even some of the other boys in the team are aware of what happened in that match. There is revenge on our mind and we can’t wait to put our best foot forward against Vidarbha. We beat them in Vijay Hazare Trophy and we hope to replicate it in Ranji Trophy.”

If eight-time champions Karnataka do wish to exact revenge on Vidarbha, who have imported former Karnataka skipper Karun Nair who has been in imperious form, then all the parts of their machine will have to work in perfect harmony as any slip-up could prove disastrous against the doughty opponents who are known to punch above their weight.

The onus will be on batters to lay the groundwork, starting from opener Samarth who has averaged just 22 (242 runs) so far this season. The right-hander, barring a couple of half-centuries, hasn’t looked his part and his early dismissals have put extra pressure on the middle-order. While the new selection committee has cracked the whip on some underperforming players, they have handed some leniency to the veteran and the quarterfinal is a great stage for him to turn things around.

It's the same for vice-captain Nikin Jose, who barring one century, has hit a trough in his sophomore season. The 199 runs at an average of 16.58 don't justify his talent and he too needs to come good, considering Karnataka will continue to miss the services of their leading run-getter Devdutt Padikkal out on national duty.

Thankfully for Karnataka their pace trio of Vidwath Kaverappa, V Koushik and Vyshak V have been on fire with a combined scalp of 76 wickets and the red-soil wicket at VCA, which Shashikanth felt is sporting in nature, should suit them for another quest. 

There’s an air of confidence in the Karnataka camp because every time they’ve found themselves in a problem this season, they’ve found a solution. It’s what top teams do and they’ll be hoping to do it again against Vidarbha, who for sure will be asking a lot of tough questions.

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(Published 22 February 2024, 15:19 IST)

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