Tepid titans look to turn the tide

Tepid titans look to turn the tide

The moniker of 'domestic giants' doesn't sit as gracefully on Mumbai's shoulders these days. In the recent times, if there is one team which has stolen a huge portion of the spotlight from the 41-time champions, it is Karnataka. The southern powerhouse has remained unbeaten against Mumbai in Ranji Trophy since 2013.

"Mumbai and Karnataka have always produced good encounters. They have really come hard at Mumbai, whenever we have played recently, either in Mumbai or in Karnataka," Mumbai skipper Suryakumar Yadav told reporters on the eve of their Group B Ranji Trophy encounter here on Thursday.  

Come Friday, at the Bandra Kurla Complex ground, hosts Mumbai have their best chance to deny Karnataka a 4-0 head-to-head record in last seven seasons. For Karnataka appear nowhere close to the team that steamrolled opposition en route to their twin titles in Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy this season. Grappling with injuries to key players and missing their big guns owing to international commitments, Karnataka, lying sixth in the combined (Group A & B) table with 10 points from three matches, have struggled for rhythm. 

The fact that they are yet to lose a game shows Karnataka haven’t failed to put up a fight in crunch situations. If the lower-order showed grit in their drawn encounter against Uttar Pradesh in Hubballi, Karnataka avoided defeat thanks to the welcome return to form of senior man Karun Nair. The gutsy spirit, though, hasn’t been enough for the eight-time champions to log six points following their thrilling win in the opener against Tamil Nadu. The absence of match-winners in the likes of K Gowtham, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Mayank Agarwal and Prasidh Krishna has truly hurt the side.

Against Mumbai, filled with players who can single-handedly turn the game in their favour, Karnataka will have to find their own big performances if they are to avoid their first defeat of the season.  

The wobbly top order will witness a change with Abhishek Reddy expected to come in place of Mayank Agarwal. Rohan Kadam, having taken impressive strides in white-ball cricket, could get his chance instead of the woefully out-of-form R Samarth. Considering both V Koushik and Prateek Jain had decent outings in the previous game, it remains to be seen who will make way for the returning Ronit More.

Mumbai have remained true to their reputation of perpetual slow starters. The fact that they were stunned by 10 wickets by Railways makes them more dangerous. "One bad match won’t make us a bad side. People shouldn't forget that we started with a win against Baroda. Whatever mistakes we did in that game, we will not repeat them here. We are hungry to come back stronger," said Suryakumar, adding that his side will field an extra spinner into the playing XI.

To avoid stoppage of play due to bad light, the game on all four days will begin at 9:00 am, 30 minutes prior to the usual scheduled time.

Squads: Karnataka: Karun Nair (captain), Shreyas Gopal (vice-captain), Devdutt Padikkal, D Nischal, R Samarth, Abhishek Reddy, Rohan Kadam, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ronit More, J Suchith, BR Sharath, Sharath Srinivas, V Koushik, Prateek Jain, Pravin Dubey.

Mumbai: Suryakumar Yadav (captain), Aditya Tare (vice-captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Prithvi Shaw, Sarfaraz Khan, Shubham Ranjane, Akash Parkar, Siddhesh Lad, Shams Mulani, Vinayak Bhoir, Shashank Attarde, Royston Dias, Tushar Deshpande, Deepak Shetty, Eknath Kerkar. 

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