Ranji Trophy: K. L. Rahul's return a 'big boost' to Karnataka, says K. Gowtham

Rahul will bolster the already star-studded batting line-up when Karnataka plays Bengal in the semifinal.

Manish Pandey (right) practices at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Thursday.   -  G. P. SAMPATH KUMAR

The availability of the ‘world-class’ K. L. Rahul for the Ranji Trophy semifinal against Bengal gives Karnataka a big boost, all-rounder K. Gowtham stated.

Rahul joins the likes of Manish Pandey, Karun Nair and Devdutt Padikkal to form a formidable batting line-up to take on Bengal in Kolkata on Saturday. Mayank Agarwal, who is part of the Indian Test side in New Zealand, is the only notable absentee in an otherwise full-strength unit.

“Rahul coming back is a big boost for our team. We will definitely look to capitalise on that,” Gowtham said at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Thursday, “If Bengal start thinking about the big names in our squad, they’ll end up putting pressure on themselves. There’s no doubt that having world-class players like Rahul gives us more confidence, but on any given day, it’s about going out there and expressing yourself.”

Gowtham was all praise for the character that the side showed in the quarterfinal outing against Jammu & Kashmir. Karnataka bounced back from a precarious situation to steal the first-innings lead, before Gowtham wreaked havoc with a seven-for haul in the second-innings to seal a 167-run victory.

‘Character’

“More than the win, the character we showed in defending the 200-odd first-innings total was great. Jammu & Kashmir was around 100 for 2 on a batting-friendly pitch, but the way our pacers and [left-arm spinner] J. Suchith bowled showed the character of the team. And the way we batted in the second innings (Karnataka was bowled out for 316) — if we can continue doing that, we can bring the Ranji Trophy back home,” the 31-year-old said.

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Karnataka will look to overcome the semifinal stumbling block it has faced in the previous two editions of the tournament.

Incidentally, Eden Gardens was the venue where the unit suffered a narrow five-run last-four defeat to eventual champion Vidarbha in 2017. A year later, on home turf, Karnataka was knocked out in the semifinal by Saurashtra. “We have lost two close semifinals in the last two years, and I played both those games. It hurt us very badly. At the same time, we have learnt a lot from those defeats. The past is the past,” Gowtham said.

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