Karnataka have a score to settle

Karnataka have a score to settle

When Karnataka and Vidarbha clashed last time in Ranji Trophy, in the 2017-18 semifinal, they produced a match for the ages.

Karnataka, who had developed the tag of the ‘only all-round side’ of the season, were handed a heart-breaking five-run defeat by the underdogs in a thrilling semifinal last year at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Vidarbha carried the confidence of upstaging the tournament favourites and clinched their maiden Ranji title.

When R Vinay Kumar’s men begin their campaign against the hosts here at the Vidarbha Cricket Association from Monday, they would look to wipe out the bitter memories. But the challenges to conquer are many for Karnataka.

The eight-time champions, placed in Group ‘A’, are low on confidence following an underwhelming Vijay Hazare Trophy where their title defence ended tamely in group stage. 

Karnataka are missing six of their first-choice players who were part of their impressive run last season. While Mayank Agarwal and K Gowtham are part of the India ‘A’ squad for the tour of New Zealand, Manish Pandey and K L Rahul are in the Indian T20 side. Veteran CM Gautam has been dropped and S Arvind now dons the role of the team’s bowling coach.

The new format -- in which only five teams progress to the knockouts combined from Group ‘A’ and Group ‘B' – has put the teams under pressure right at the start and there is little hope for late bloomers. Karnataka thus would want to find a successful combination as early as possible. On the batting front, R Samarth will open with rookie D Nischal.

Debutants

On the eve of the game, Vinay said that either K V Siddharth or Shishir Bhavane will bat at No 3 with Karun Nair sticking to his regular position of No 4. If Siddharth gets a chance, the 25-year-old will be making his debut. There is no uncertainty in the case of B R Sharath as the wicketkeeper-batsman will play his maiden Ranji game on Monday.

The surface has a good covering of grass but it remains to be seen if a green top is offered considering the home team’s problems with its pace battery. While their trump card Rajneesh Gurbani is part of the India ‘A’ squad, young sensation Aditya Thakare is out due to a niggle.

Karnataka, on the other hand, are well equipped to utilise the conditions with a good mix of youth and experience in the fast bowling department. The young Prasidh Krishna will look to support the seasoned Vinay and Abhimanyu Mithun with medium pacer Stuart Binny completing the pace pack.    

“It looks like a good bowling wicket for now but they (curators) are saying they might remove the grass. If it (pitch) remains like this I have a combination in mind otherwise I will have to change plans tomorrow morning,” said Vinay.

Vidarbha escaped a defeat against Maharashtra in their opening tie in Pune. Skipper Faiz Fazal, who slammed a second-innings ton to help his team pull off a draw, would want his batsmen to play more responsibly after a shoddy first innings show saw them fold for 120.  

The hosts appear to be a much more settled side, with the core of the title-winning team available. Fazal, Wasim Jaffer, Ganesh Satish and Sanjay Ramaswamy form a strong batting line-up but it is their bowling that will be put to test.

Teams (from):

Karnataka: R Vinay Kumar (Captain), Karun Nair, R Samarth, D Nischal, Pavan Deshpande, K V Siddharth, Stuart Binny, Shishir Bhavane, B R Sharath (wicketkeeper), Sharath Srinivas (wk), Shreyas Gopal, Abhimanyu Mithun, M Prasidh Krishna, J Suchith, Ronit More.

Vidarbha: Faiz Fazal (Captain.), Ganesh Satish, Wasim Jaffer, Aditya Sarvate, Siddhesh Wath (wicketkeeper), Atharva Taide, Akshay Wakhare, Akshay Wadkar (wk), Apoorv Wankhade, R Sanjay, Akshay Karnewar, Shreekant Wagh, Suniket Bingewar, Lalit Yadav, Darshan Nalkande.

Umpires: K N Ananthapadmanabhan and Rajeev Godara; Match referee: Youraj Singh.

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