Following rousing success, with title-wins in the Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali trophies, an upbeat Karnataka will look to stamp its authority in the Ranji Trophy which starts on December 9 with the away fixture against Tamil Nadu in Dindigul.
In each of the last two editions, Karnataka has exited the premier red-ball tournament in the semifinals. But with a more mature and experienced squad this time around, the eight-time champion is confident that it can add to its trophy cabinet.
The availability of Mayank Agarwal for almost the entirety of the tournament is central to this belief. The 28-year-old has been in red hot form for India in Tests and will shore up a Karnataka top-order that had failed to click during the 2018-19 campaign.
“He brings in a lot of experience,” said Karnataka coach Yere Goud. “Hopefully that confidence will rub off on the others. He will be great in helping players on how to approach a four-day game. The youngsters will definitely benefit.”
Devdutt Padikkal’s seemingly insatiable appetite for runs is another plus. The teenager has built on last year’s promising start (three half-centuries in five Ranji matches) to emerge the stand-out batsman for Karnataka this season.
The absence of K.V. Siddharth, at least for the first match, and Manish Pandey, for the opening two games, does render the middle-order slightly weak. But Goud wasn’t worried and chose to place faith in the team’s flexibility.
“If a player gets a chance, whatever the position, he needs to adapt and play. Rohan Kadam is an opener but in the T20s he played at No. 5 and adapted really well. So wherever the opportunity comes, they have to deliver.”
Injuries to frontline pacemen A. Mithun and Prasidh Krishna has left the pace attack short-changed, but Goud was excited by the prospect of the uncapped K.S. Devaiah prospering.
“All our bowlers were out-swing bowlers. So we looked at someone who could get the ball in. Mithun and Prasidh could have done that but they are injured. So we picked Devaiah to get that variety with the new ball. As the tournament progresses, Mithun will come back and then Prasidh too. So we are prepared,” he said.
“Last season it took us some time to understand the team,” added Goud, who along with S. Arvind, is into his second year as coach.
“Now we know which player will succeed in which situation. We are in a tight group where all teams are good; not just Tamil Nadu but Mumbai, Saurashtra and others. It will be a challenge to qualify. But we have prepared well.”
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