Ranji Trophy: Karnataka in race to cement top spot

The team, facing Railways in the final round ahead of the knockouts, needs to outperform Delhi to finish as table topper.

R. Vinay Kumar... “I will take Railways as the best team and play to our potential.”   -  G. P. Sampath Kumar

Mahesh Rawat and R. Vinay Kumar epitomise the quintessential domestic cricketer. As captain of their respective teams, they bring a sense of assurance to the dressing room with their longevity in first-class cricket.

When they walk out for toss at the Karnail Singh Stadium here on Saturday, Rawat and Vinay would be carrying contrasting responsibilities in their final league match in Group ‘A’ of the Ranji Trophy.

Read: Delhi looks to seal top spot

Karnataka is at the top of the table with 26 points while Railways has 14. To maintain its position, Karnataka needs to perform better than Delhi which has 24 points ahead of the match against Hyderabad.

‘No regrets’

Rawat is senior by a year to Vinay, who made his first-class debut in 2004. With 105 matches to his credit, Rawat, 32, has distinguished himself in a journey that has earned him respect on the circuit. “I also dreamt of playing for India but no regrets. I have enjoyed achieving my small goals that I set every season,” said Rawat.

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Railways, served wonderfully by 31-year-old Shivakant Shukla, who brings an experience of 82 first-class matches, and the tireless seamer Anureet Singh, who has 20 wickets against his name this season, faltered after a brilliant start. “We began well (beating Uttar Pradesh) but failed to build on it. We could have done better,” noted Rawat.

‘Challenge’

Vinay assessed the season aptly. “My personal ambition is definitely to come back to Indian team. Before that winning Ranji Trophy is a very big challenge for us. I will take them (Railways) as the best team and play to our potential.”

Read: Do-or-die for Mumbai

For Vinay, support has come from the awesome batting line up where Mayank Agarwal (757 runs), R. Samarth (547), Karun Nair (383), Panish Pandey (346) and Stuart Binny (317) have performed with admirable consistency. D. Nischal, aggregating 211 in two matches, has reconfirmed the outstanding cricket culture that has helped Karnataka dominate for a long time.

Vinay has led from the front with a haul of 14 wickets along with talented off-spinner K. Gowtham (17), seamer A. Mithun (15) and leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal (14). “There’s no grass on the pitch. Looks like a turner,” remarked Vinay. Karnataka obviously will strive to win the game even as Railways plays for pride in conditions it is overwhelmingly familiar with.

The teams (from)
  • Karnataka: R. Vinay Kumar (c), R. Samarth, Mayank Agarwal, C. M. Gautam, Karun Nair, K. Gowtham, Manish Pandey, Stuart Binny, Shreyas Gopal, J. Suchith, A. Mithun, Ronit More, D. Nischal, Sharath Srinivas, Pavan Deshpande.
  • Railways: Mahesh Rawat (c), Shivakant Shukla, Mrunal Devdhar, Pratham Singh, Nitin Bhille, Arindam Ghosh, Manish Rao, Vinit Dhulap, Ambikeshwar Mishra, Vidyadhar Kamath, Karan Thakur, Abhishek Yadav, Amit Mishra, Abhishek Sharma, Deepak Bansal.