The Karnataka side is used to losing a couple of players to the national team every Ranji Trophy season, but this time, the squad will wear an especially depleted look. India’s tour of Australia and India A’s tour of New Zealand will leave Karnataka without the services of K.L. Rahul, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, Mayank Agarwal, R. Samarth and K. Gowtham for large chunks of the campaign.
In addition, young medium-pacer Prasidh Krishna will be part of the Emerging Teams Asia Cup in December. Advancing from the Ranji Trophy’s Elite Group A that includes – among other teams – Vidarbha, Mumbai, Maharashtra, Saurashtra and Gujarat does not look simple now but Yere Goud, the Karnataka head coach, is not worried.
“I see it as a season of opportunities,” he said after overseeing his team's last practice session at the KSCA-B ground before departure for Nagpur. “Yes, we will be missing key players, we will miss their experience; but we have players who can take that responsibility. We have batsmen like D. Nischal, K.V. Siddharth and Shishir Bhavane, who are capable. We are also looking at guys who have performed for the U-23 side, like Devdutt Padikkal and Shubhang Hegde,” Goud admitted that his team's batsmen had lacked application in the Vijay Hazare Trophy; the winter will offer a sterner test.
Karnataka will play eight games over the next eight weeks, which will also make managing the workload of fast bowlers important. R. Vinay Kumar is the side's captain and premier bowler; Karnataka cannot afford to lose the 34-year-old to injury. T. Pradeep, who is recovering from a back injury, is only expected to be ready by the turn of the year. “We have back-up bowlers like Prateek Jain and H.S. Sharath,” said Goud. “Ronit More has come back into the side. Abhimanyu Mithun is experienced. In the U-23 team, we have bowlers like Vyshak Vijay Kumar and Aditya Somanna.”
The absence of off-spinner Gowtham, who has taken 61 wickets over the last two seasons – more than any other Karnataka bowler, will also be a huge blow. Goud was confident, though, that leggie Shreyas Gopal and left-arm spinner J. Suchith could deliver.
The key to handling young players, the former Karnataka and Railways batsman stated, was not placing them under undue pressure. “We will tell them that performance alone does not matter,” he said. "How they approach the game also matters. We will not give them just one or two opportunities; we'll give them four or five. If you put them under pressure to perform, they may not do well.”