Karnataka eager to raise their game

BACK IN ACTION: Karnataka skipper R Vinay Kumar will return for the game against Maharashtra in Mysuru from Wednesday. DH PHOTO

If there is one team Karnataka can boldly claim to have an upper hand over in the last six years, it’s Maharashtra.

From hammering them by an innings and 136 runs at their own bastion last season — a match well remembered for Mayank Agarwal’s epic 304 not out — to trouncing them by seven wickets in February 2014 final that saw them lift their seventh Ranji Trophy title, Karnataka have beaten Maharashtra handsomely in four out of their last five meetings.

Undoubtedly, they will be looking to extend that dominance here at SDNRW ground when the two sides lock horns in a Group A affair.

However, Karnataka, whose new arrivals KV Siddharth and B R Sharath have caught the attention instantly with wonderful individual displays in the two games so far this season, know the battle from Wednesday may not be one-sided and they will have to dig deep to pull off a win. The major reason is that both sides are loaded with youngsters that makes them evenly balanced.

“Whenever we played against them (Maharashtra), they’ve always played good cricket,” reckoned Karnataka skipper R Vinay Kumar after Tuesday’s practice session. “They are also playing with a lot of youngsters and we are also on the same page. If we play to our potential, definitely we have a good chance of taking three points or even winning the game. But we need to play good cricket. We can’t take any team lightly.”

With Vinay declaring himself match-fit and the selectors having already wielded the axe on under-performing senior Stuart Binny as well as Shishir Bhavane, Karnataka will have to make three changes for this clash. One of them appears straightforward with talented teenager Devdutt Padikkal coming in for Bhavane as an opener although Vinay chose to reveal nothing.

The tall batsman has been making quite an impression in age group cricket over the last few years and was tipped to be handed a first-class debut this season. With the 18-year-old scoring 321 runs (3 matches) in the ongoing Col CK Nayudu Trophy, the selectors felt time was right to fast-track him and give him a maiden Ranji Trophy call-up.

The toss up for Binny’s slot could be between Pavan Deshpande and Abhishek Reddy. The tough decision will be on who to bench to make way for Vinay. While Ronit More, Vinay’s replacement last game, celebrated his return to the team with a five-wicket haul, Prasidh Krishna has held his end quite well. Abhimanyu Mithun, if fit, will retain his place, considering his experience and the lack of it in the team.

Maharashtra, who just have four points and are missing regular skipper Ankit Bawne for this game, will be desperate to get back on track after stuttering against Baroda. Buoyed after two fighting efforts, Karnataka, on the other hand, will attempt to increase their tempo.

Fixtures (Nov 28-Dec 1): Elite: Group A: Chhattisgarh vs Vidarbha, Karnataka vs Maharastra, Mumbai vs Gujarat, Saurashtra vs Baroda.

Group B: Delhi vs Punjab, Hyderabad vs Himachal Pradesh, Kerala vs Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu vs Bengal.

Group C: Assam vs Haryana, Odisha vs Tripura, Goa vs Jharkhand, Services vs Jammu & Kashmir, UP vs Rajasthan.

Plate: Arunachal Pradesh vs Uttarakhand, Bihar vs Sikkim, Manipur vs Meghalaya, Puducherry vs Mizoram.

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