Karnataka face uphill task

Karnataka players at a training session on the eve of their Ranji Trophy match against Mumbai in Belagavi. DH photo/ Tajuddin Azad

Mumbai generally have had the better of exchanges with Karnataka for a long time -- their 10 wins and three losses from 25 matches so far is a fair reflection of that point.

In the last few years, however, the trend has been dramatically different. The Mumbai-Delhi rivalry might be a storied one for reasons beyond cricketing, but no team has been more competitive against the Western powerhouse than Karnataka in recent times.

It may come as a surprise that it wasn’t until the 2013-14 league match that Karnataka had managed to beat Mumbai outright even once. In fact, since the onset of this decade, Karnataka and Mumbai have squared off five times with the former winning three of them and taking an innings lead in another. Only in 2014-15 did Karnataka concede first innings lead in a league fixture.

As the rain-hit Belagavi braces to host the first Ranji Trophy match involving Karnataka in nearly two decades from Tuesday, the big question is whether the R Vinay Kumar-led side would continue their sway over Mumbai who appear the better side on paper.     

In the absence of several established stars owing to their selection to India senior and A teams, Karnataka’s batting is thin both in terms of experience and quality. There were a couple of impressive performances in their drawn Group A opener against Vidarbha with rookie D Nischal and debutante wicketkeeper-batsman B R Sharath slamming contrasting but crucial tons. But Karnataka will be hoping more of them to stand up and deliver.

In Liyan Khan and Mir Kaunian Abbas, they have two replacements for R Samarth and Karun Nair but it remains to be seen if both or any one of them gets to play as Pavan Deshpande and Shishir Bhavane have been with the squad from the start. It may all boil down to who is more suited to opening the innings along with, most probably, Nischal.  

Bowling is unlikely to see many changes unless the team management wants to play local boy Ronit More in place of the other paceman Prasidh Krishna who was largely ineffective against Vidarbha. Vinay appears to have fully recovered from the stiff neck which restricted his bowling in Nagpur. Stuart Binny’s experience will be handy for Karnataka in this big match.

Left-armer J Suchith and leggie Shreyas Gopal, who was wicketless in the first match, will handle the spin department. Suchith was particularly impressive against Vidarbha, taking nine wickets for the match.

Mumbai too are missing some big names in Prithvi Shaw and Shreyas Iyer but they have a handful of seasoned campaigners to bank on. Aditya Tare, Siddesh Lad and Suryakumar Yadav bring both style and solidity to batting. Shivam Dubey, who has a century and two fifties in his four Ranji innings so far, holds plenty of promise as does the 22-year-old Jay Bista.

Led by paceman Dhawal Kulkarni, Mumbai attack can pose some serious questions to the inexperienced home batting. Right-arm quick Tushar Deshpande is fast rising while left-arm spinner Shams Mulani is already in senior national selectors’ radar.

While Mumbai appear better-equipped given the right mix at their disposal, Karnataka will hope their reserves make it count. It will also give a fair idea about the State’s supply line.  

 

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Karnataka face uphill task

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