Ranji Trophy 2018-19: Bolstered Karnataka starts favourite against Saurashtra

Key batsmen Karun Nair and R. Samarth will join the Karnataka side as it takes on Saurashtra at the SCA Stadium on Thursday.

File Photo: Karun Nair (left) and R. Samarth will join the squad after completing their stints with the India ‘A’ four-day team in New Zealand.   -  K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

A confident Karnataka, bolstered by the inclusion of key batsmen Karun Nair and R. Samarth, starts as favourite for the contest against Saurashtra here.

Karun and Samarth join the squad after completing their stints with the India ‘A’ four-day team in New Zealand. Karnataka, already on a high after posting an outright victory over Maharashtra in its previous game, will be delighted to have the two match-winners on board.

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Pacer A. Mithun, who injured his ankle at Mysuru, bowled at full tilt at nets on Wednesday morning, and is fit for action. Bowling coach S. Arvind, who only retired at the end of last season, also had a bowl.

Debut for Prateek Jain

Arvind proved that he is not too far removed from his prime, as his left-arm seamers frequently troubled the batsmen with good pace and movement. Fellow fast bowler Prasidh Krishna has left to join the India ‘A’ one-day side.

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Prasidh has been replaced by left-arm speedster Prateek Jain, who has earned a maiden first-class call-up. Prateek was born in Madhya Pradesh, and moved to Bengaluru around eight years ago to train at Karnataka Institute Of Cricket (KIOC). The likes of K. L. Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, K. Gowtham and Manish Pandey continue to be away on India and India ‘A’ duties.

“The return of Karun and Samarth is a big boost. They have done really well for Karnataka over the years. Having them back adds a lot of strength,” Karnataka captain Vinay Kumar said here on Wednesday.

‘Important’ contest

Vinay is keen to keep the winning momentum going. “Only the top-five teams from both Group A and Group B will qualify, which makes things tricky. If a couple of games are affected by rain, you may miss out on a knockout berth. Therefore, it is very important to chase the outright wins,” he said.

Abhimanyu Mithun (right) bowled at full tilt in the nets on Wednesday morning, and is fully fit to participate in the contest. File Photo: Sampath Kumar G. P.

 

Karnataka sits in sixth-place on the combined group standings, with one win and two draws. Saurashtra, on the other hand, has one win and three draws. The host may lack star power, but has managed to put up a good show in this campaign. Run-machine Cheteshwar Pujara and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja are part of the Indian Test squad for Australia, while Robin Uthappa is yet to fully recover from an injury.

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To see Uthappa take on his friends and former Karnataka team-mates would have been a sight to behold, but it is not to be.

Captain Jaydev Shah (playing his last match), Sheldon Jackson and Harvik Desai have come good with the bat, while left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja has been the standout bowler with 13 wickets in six innings.