Gautam: 'We have the psychological edge'

The return of K.L. Rahul, Karun Nair and Manish Pandey from India duty will give Karnataka the upper hand against Tamil Nadu in their Ranji Trophy quarterfinal, believes C.M. Gautam.

"In our last three meetings with Tamil Nadu, we have won outright twice and taken the first-innings lead once. We have the psychological edge."   -  K. Bhagya Prakash

The return of K.L. Rahul, Karun Nair and Manish Pandey from India duty will give Karnataka the upper hand against Tamil Nadu in their Ranji Trophy quarterfinal, believes C.M. Gautam. "Having the three guys back will be a huge confidence boost," the wicket-keeper said here on Monday. "It is perhaps the first time since the 2013-14 season that we have put out a full-strength side. The advantage is with us."

The presence of R. Ashwin and M. Vijay in the Tamil Nadu side did not concern Gautam. "We have played against them right from our junior days; our players have all faced him (Ashwin)," he said. "In our last three meetings with Tamil Nadu, we have won outright twice and taken the first-innings lead once. We have the psychological edge."

Gautam admitted Karnataka had to play better on turners, given the defeat to Saurashtra in Patiala last month. But he did not expect the ball to turn square in Vishakhapatnam. "We didn't do well in Patiala. After that game, we practised batting on turning tracks. We have sorted out our batting. I don't think we will get a square turner like Patiala in Vizag. It will probably be slow and low," he said.

The continued change in personnel had affected the batting, Gautam felt. "We haven't had a settled batting line-up. In the first game, Kaunain Abbas played at five, and in the last match he opened. Manish (Pandey) played a couple of games and went back; Karun too. We have had to rotate our batsmen. Guys playing for the country, coming and going, it happens. We have to deal with it," he said.

The rivalry between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu may be a storied one in domestic cricket, but Gautam sought to downplay its intensity. "We've played for South Zone in the Duleep Trophy. We've played together in the IPL. So that rivalry is no more," he said. "It's just another cricket game."

Uthappa dropped; Rahul, Karun and Manish return

Meanwhile, Robin Uthappa was dropped from the squad for the quarterfinal against TN.

Robin has endured a poor run of form, making scores of 14, 8, 23, 32, 6 and 39 in his last six innings. He was left out of the side for Karnataka's last league game, against Maharashtra in Mohali. "It was a unanimous decision from all the selectors and coaches," said R. Sudhakar Rao, Chairman of the State Senior Selection Committee.

"At present, Robin is not in form. We can't drop the guys who are scoring runs, plus Rahul, Nair and Pandey are coming in. It won't look nice to name Robin in the squad and then put him on the bench. So we have decided to give him a break."

Karnataka will play Tamil Nadu in Vishakhapatnam from December 23.

The team: R. Vinay Kumar (Capt.), K.L. Rahul, R. Samarth, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, Stuart Binny, Kaunain Abbas, C.M. Gautam, A. Mithun, S. Arvind, K. Gowtham, Shreyas Gopal, Pavan Deshpande, Abrar Kazi, David Mathias, and Mayank Agarwal.