Stung by defeat in the Ranji Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Karnataka will be eager to make amends when its campaign in the national one-day limited-overs tournament commences here on Wednesday.
Placed in Group A of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, R. Vinay Kumar's men will start their journey against Baroda at the Just Cricket grounds, aware that there is not much room for error in a pool that also includes Punjab, Haryana, Orissa, Assam, and Railways.
In truth, Karnataka's domestic season has not been a poor one. The team was in fine form in the Ranji Trophy till it was undone by a bad fourth day against Vidarbha in the semifinals. In the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (T20), Karnataka lost to Punjab via a Super Over before a batting collapse against Rajasthan put it out of the competition. The side won its next two games convincingly, but those results were merely academic.
“We are a little sad. We lost the first game (in the T20s) when we could have won. After that we came back really well. We rested all the seniors just to test our bench strength and it went well. Our morale would have been high if we had won. But that tournament is over now. We need to think ahead,” said Vinay.
The captain admitted that his side could not afford to drop its guard at any stage. “We need to be there till the last ball,” he said. “It's not like you do well in the first session or the first 15-20 overs [and it's all right]. Ten overs is more than enough to lose a game.”
Karnataka has rested Stuart Binny and S. Arvind for the first two fixtures — against Baroda and Assam — but has KL Rahul back. The India batsman is expected to be available for three games at least before he returns to South Africa for the T20 internationals. Batting will not be a worry, with Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, and Pavan Deshpande all making runs in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
Anirudha Joshi too demonstrated his worth in Kolkata with some lusty hitting. In the absence of Arvind, arguably Karnataka's best bowler in the T20s, much will be expected of young seamer Prasidh Krishna.
Baroda, led by Deepak Hooda and featuring the likes of Yusuf Pathan and Krunal Pandya, will offer a stern challenge first up. Punjab — with Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Gurkeerat Singh, Mandeep Singh, Manan Vohra and U-19 star Shubman Gill in its ranks — too appears a formidable outfit. With only two teams advancing to the quarterfinals from each group, Karnataka has its task cut out.