Ranji Trophy 2018-19: Karnataka keen to get back on track

Following the dispiriting loss to Saurashtra in just under three days, a bruised Karnataka will look to get its Ranji Trophy campaign back on track when it takes on Gujarat at the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium from Friday.

Mayank Agarwal will be part of the Karnataka side. (File photo)   -  G.P. Sampath Kumar

Following the dispiriting loss to Saurashtra in just under three days, a bruised Karnataka (12 points from four games) will look to get its Ranji Trophy campaign back on track when it takes on Gujarat (17 points from five games) at the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium here from Friday.

In this quest, it will be boosted by the additions of star batsman Mayank Agarwal and offie K. Gowtham after the completion of their New Zealand sojourns. Though Manish Pandey, who was also on the same tour, had not yet reached India, said KSCA secretary R. Sudhakar Rao.

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The body blow will however be the absence of Karun Nair who is reported to have sustained a hairline fracture on his right thumb in the previous outing. The injury is set to sideline him for three weeks.

On a rank turner in Rajkot, Karun, in an otherwise brittle batting line-up, had looked solid in both innings and it will now be up to the returning Mayank and R. Samarth -- who endured a twin failure in the last match, scoring 15 and 0 -- to lead the way.

Whether the Surat wicket will be as spin-friendly remains to be seen but its recent history is indicative of a sporting, result-oriented pitch with the red soil topping tipped to help the tweakers as the tie progresses. Karnataka, which wasn’t very happy with the Rajkot strip, will no doubt have a beady eye on it.

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This will also decide how the side shuffles its bowling pack, especially in the event of Gowtham’s inclusion in the squad. Left-arm spinner J. Suchith has been on fire, picking up 23 wickets thus far, while leggie Shreyas Gopal has contributed with both bat and ball, accounting for 169 runs and 11 scalps.

Gujarat though may have fewer dilemmas. It is a settled outfit with just 14 players featuring in the five matches this season and one of them being wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel who is away with the Indian team in Australia. Skipper Priyank Panchal has been in rousing form and is currently the second-highest run-getter in the competition, scoring 667 runs from 10 innings at an average of 83.38 including three centuries and four fifties.

However, like Karnataka, which was brought quickly down to earth by Saurashtra after the win against Maharashtra, Gujarat too, after having flattened heavyweight Mumbai, dropped points by conceding the first innings lead to a relatively weak Railways side. Neither sides can now afford a repeat.

The squads (from)

Karnataka: Vinay Kumar (Capt.), Shreyas Gopal, D. Nischal, K.V. Siddharth, R. Samarth, Mayank Agarwal, Devdutt Padikkal, B.R. Sharath, J. Suchith, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ronit More, K. Gowtham, Pavan Deshpande, Sharath Srinivas and Prateek Jain.

Gujarat: Priyank Panchal (Capt.), Manprit Juneja, Rujul Bhatt, Rush Kalaria, Het Patel, Dhruv Raval (wk), Chintan Gaja, Karan Patel, Mehul Patel, Piyush Chawla, Kathan Patel, Siddharth Desai, Arzan Nagwaswalla, Bhargav Merai and Hardik Patel .