Ranji Trophy: Mayank returns as Karnataka takes on Himachal Pradesh

Bolstered by the return of Mayank Agarwal, Karnataka will look to consolidate its decent start to the Ranji Trophy campaign when it takes on Himachal Pradesh.

Mayank Agarwal during a training session ahead of Karnataka's match against Himachal Pradesh.   -  N. SUDARSHAN

Bolstered by the return of Mayank Agarwal, Karnataka will look to consolidate its decent start to the Ranji Trophy campaign when it takes on Himachal Pradesh at the picturesque SDNR Wadiyar Stadium here from Wednesday.

Following the thrilling 26-run win over arch-rival Tamil Nadu in the opening fixture, Karnataka lowered its guard against Uttar Pradesh before scrapping to secure the first innings lead. Against Himachal, which is fresh off a 71-run win over Tamil Nadu, it can ill afford such complacency.

Its top-order will be of particular concern and also the injury-hit bowling unit. While Devdutt Padikkal has seamlessly carried his limited-overs form into red-ball cricket, D. Nischal, one of the batting mainstays last season, and skipper Karun Nair have failed to impress. Also on the look out for runs will be R. Samarth, who has endured a poor run, stretching back to the previous campaign.

Read: I haven’t forgotten how to bat, says Shikhar Dhawan

“It’s a matter of one big innings,” said Samarth on the eve of the contest. “Last season things didn’t work out because I had a few adjustments to make, a few [mistakes] had crept in.. like I was pushing at the ball. In league cricket I got that going, so I am feeling much better. I was happy coming into the season but picked up a side strain, [but] I am batting well now and just need to spend some time in the middle.”

For a bowling attack already reeling because of injuries to K. Gowtham and Prasidh Krishna, a heel injury to speedster Ronit More in the lead-up to the match has dealt a severe blow. The seasoned Abhimanyu Mithun will once again shoulder the burden, with rookie paceman K.S Devaiah in line for his first-class debut.

If Himachal is to trouble Karnataka, its batting has to come good. The team hasn’t crossed 200 in any of the four innings thus far (highest 182) and has depended solely on its bowling strength. Pacer Vaibhav Arora and left-arm spinner Akash Vashist, who have played a combined three first-class matches, have carried the side with 13 and 9 wickets respectively.

The onus will be on the likes of Prashant Chopra and Ankit Kalsi to finally shine, lest the bowlers be left with too much to do.

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