Pandey takes over baton from Vinay

YOUR TURN MATE: R Vinay Kumar (left) with Manish Pandey, who has been named as Karnataka’s captain, at a training session. DH PHOTO/ SK DINESH

It has been a season of changes for Karnataka cricket. The selection committee has not hesitated to crack the whip on under-performing seniors while giving promising players the opportunity to showcase their skills.

And on Saturday, the management perhaps took the biggest decision of the year. R Vinay Kumar, who has an impeccable record as captain, handed over his leadership duties to Manish Pandey. The aggressive batsman, who led the State side in the Vijay Hazare Trophy this season, was named skipper for all formats. 

Injuries have plagued Vinay in recent times. Since the unprecedented double-treble between 2013-15 when Vinay was at the helm, Karnataka haven't won a single title under the right-arm medium pacer. Choosing Pandey for captaincy is a fresh start for Karnataka cricket. 

"We want to try a new younger leader and Manish is the best candidate. He’s young, fit and available for the rest of the season. We have to keep the future in mind,” said Sudhakar Rao, secretary, Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA).  

Pandey's first assignment, as the regular skipper, begins on Sunday, when Karnataka take on Chhattisgarh in their penultimate Group 'A' Ranji Trophy game at the Alur ground. Vinay, fitness permitting, will continue to lead the pace attack. "Vinay still has great value as a fast bowler. As long as he is fit, he will play,” Rao said.  

In his eight-year stint as the Ranji Trophy captain, Vinay has a brilliant record of 26 wins, 26 draws and seven losses from 59 games. Between 2013-15, when Karnataka were the undisputed champions of domestic cricket, Vinay smartly handled a team filled with exceptional talent. During that period, Karnataka exhibited ruthless cricket with many team members hailing their skipper's positive influence on the side. 

"I was definitely blessed with a superb team. I just worked with the coaches to define each member's role and all of them responded well. Our team never depended on a single individual and that was key to our success," Vinay told DH. 

As many players began graduating to the national side, Vinay had the challenge of handling a side that was hardly settled. In the absence of senior campaigners, the now 34-year-old led from the front. Vinay often returned with fine figures with the ball or chipped in with crucial cameos with the bat. "I looked at that phase in a positive way. Whoever came into the side, I just explained to them about the demands of playing in a senior team. We kept it very simple and made the new comers very comfortable," he said. 

Vinay said he wasn't surprised with the management's call. "To be honest, I was part of this process. I knew I had to gradually hand over my captaincy to someone suitable. Manish is a good friend, I will keep giving my inputs. He is a wonderful guy and definitely he will lead well," Vinay offered. 

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