For the very first time this season at home, Kerala start as the underdogs when it takes on table topper Karnataka in a round six match of the Ranji Trophy cricket tournament at the KCA-St. Xavier’s College ground here on Tuesday.
History and form favour Karnataka which has never lost to Kerala in a Ranji Trophy match since 2001. Karnataka batting with the presence of Mayank Agarwal, Devidutt Padikkal, Ravikumar Samarth and Manish Pandey looks formidable.
Karnataka has more variety in its bowling attack and it has two quality spinners in Krishnappa Gowtham and Shreyas Gopal to exploit the track if there is any help for the slow bowlers.
Karnataka is coming to the match with back-to-back wins at home and is high on confidence. Kerala, placed second in the group, has thrived on its home conditions on tracks which have aided spin.
Jalaj Saxena has been the standout bowler for Kerala this season. The off-spinners took a career-best performance (8/36) against Services in the last match and will again play a key role against Karnataka.
Against Services, Jalaj found support from his fellow spinners and they bowled well as a unit.
Basil Thampi has been woefully out of form this season and he looked very ordinary against Services. Kerala’s new ball bowlers were unable to exploit the favourable conditions and it is a worry.
The batters barring Sachin Baby and Rohan Prem have been inconsistent. Rohan Kunnummal has recovered from his illness and is likely to resume the opening duties with P. Rahul.
But Rohan hasn’t hit his full stride and Kerala hasn’t got any good starts this season. Kerala batters will have to lift themselves and play positively against their superior rival.
Kerala coach Tinu Yohannan acknowledged the strength of the Karnataka side and said his side will have to play to their potential to make a match out of this encounter.``We have to be on top of our game and not worry about the opposition. We have to do things right and seize our opportunities to put pressure on Karnataka,’‘ he said.