Karnataka look to defend Hazare crown

Karnataka cricket team captain R Vinay Kumar in chat with team goach Yeregud and bowling coach S Aravind during nets practice session at Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru on Tuesday. Photo Srikanta Sharma R.

Karnataka ended their three-year title drought by winning the Vijay Hazare Trophy last season. R Vinay Kumar’s men will begin favourites when the 50-over tournament begins here from Wednesday.

Karnataka’s opening match is against Maharashtra at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday, after the tournament kicks off with three matches at Alur on the opening day.    

For a team that appears star-studded every season, Karnataka’s triumph was ironically fashioned by a bunch of youngsters. In the absence of many experienced names for varying reasons, the likes of Prasidh Krishna, Pavan Deshpande and T Pradeep stood up to the challenge and delivered.  

However, focus this time will again be on Mayank Agarwal, who has remained unstoppable in all formats ever since his triple century against Maharashtra in the Ranji Trophy last year. Karnataka’s batting is solid with the presence of R Samarth and Karun Nair. All-rounders K Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal are coming on the back of some fine performances in India ‘A’ tours and Duleep Trophy.

The experienced Vinay and Abhimanyu Mithun will lead the pace attack while the talented Prasidh, who was picked as one of the net bowlers for the Indian team currently playing the Asia Cup, will join the side from UAE on Wednesday. 

It will be the first big assignment for new coaches Yere Goud (batting) and S Arvind (bowling). Vinay, who has played with both the players, said it helps to have former team-mates as coach. 

“Yere is a positive guy. He has played over 100 first-class games and his inputs will be important for us. If you look at Arvind, it’s like he hasn’t left us despite the retirement and our core group remains the same. Till last year, he was a player and now he is guiding us. So there is a continuity. We look like a happy side and definitely, we will do well.”

New format

This edition of the tournament will witness a new format, with nine new teams entering the fray. The 28 old teams have been placed across three elite groups -- Group ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’. Group ‘A’ and ‘B’ have nine teams each while ten teams are in Group ‘C’. The nine new teams will battle it out in the Plate Division. 

A total of five teams from Group ‘A’ and ‘B’ will advance to the quarterfinals. Irrespective of the group, teams will progress based on the points earned. Two teams will progress from Group ‘C’ while one team from Plate Division will complete the quarterfinal line-up.

Rain threat will loom large over Group ‘A’ matches, which are scheduled in Bengaluru. Karnataka, who are also in Group ‘A’, are placed among formidable teams like Mumbai, Vidarbha and Punjab. 

Mumbai, led by Ajinkya Rahane, have a clutch of match winners in Shreyas Iyer, Prithvi Shaw and Suryakumar Yadav.

They will face Baroda in the opener at Alur 3 ground. In Group ‘B’, Delhi, Andhra and Saurashtra are the teams likely to make progress.

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Karnataka look to defend Hazare crown

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