Karnataka look to scalp tricky Rajasthan

Karnataka look to scalp tricky Rajasthan

Karnataka skipper Manish Pandey (centre), team-mates K Gowtham (left) and A Mithun during a practice session ahead of their Ranji Trophy quarterfinal against Rajasthan at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Monday. DH Photo/ S K Dinesh

Karnataka's road to the Ranji Trophy knockout stage this season hasn't been as smooth as it has been in the last couple of years. But then, ahead of their quarterfinal game against Rajasthan here at the Chinnaswamy stadium from Tuesday, it works in favour of the eight-time champions that they have been tested in all departments. 

It has been a season of new faces for Karnataka and the biggest challenge for the former champions was to strike that rhythm early in their campaign. The encouraging performances from youngsters saw Karnataka stave off some stiff challenges en route their quarterfinal berth. They have not only fought hard on tough surfaces but also held on for draws from precarious situations.  

Manish Pandey, who took over the captaincy from R Vinay Kumar, said he wants to build a side that performs collectively. "From a couple of years, as a player, what I felt is Karnataka have had good individual performances. What I would want to bring to the team is the style of playing as a team. I thought that was missing from a couple of years and I think it will help Karnataka in the future," said Pandey on the eve of the match.   

The visitors, in stark contrast to the hosts, have cruised to the last-eight stage. Rajasthan's unbeaten run was on the back of a stellar show from the pace attack consisting of Aniketh Choudhary (47 wickets), Tanvir-Ul-Haq (47) and Rahul Chahar (36). Deepak Chahar, who dazzled in the IPL last season, is another key man in the bowling unit. It is safe to say that the game could be a battle between Karnataka's batting and Rajasthan's bowling. 

The home team's biggest worry is the form of the experienced Karun Nair and R Samarth. Both the batsmen have battled injuries and whenever they have been in action, they have been far from their best. While Nair has mustered 135 from three games, Samarth has made 115 from five games at an average 12.77. 

"They are big match players. We have backed them before and they have really done well for Karnataka in the recent years. Samarth's good show helped him play for India 'A', where he got a lot of runs. A couple of bad games don't define a player. It's just about bouncing back and rescuing Karnataka whenever we need them," Pandey said. 

K V Siddharth, in his debut season, is Karnataka's top scorer with 651 runs while D Nischal has raked up 613. Pandey too has struck form early, scoring a half-century and a ton in three games. Among the fast bowlers, Ronit More has been a revelation with 29 wickets, including three five-wicket hauls. Prasidh Krishna, after a forgettable start to the season, has gotten into his groove, but the right-arm medium pacer will most likely make way for veteran R Vinay Kumar. 

For a big game, Pandey felt it's good to be back home. "We have many good memories on this ground. We have won games from nowhere at this stadium. I think it will be important for us to remember those moments and give our best," Pandey said.