While some players were completing their last pre-match training stint at the Mumbai Cricket Association’s facility at the Bandra-Kurla Complex on Wednesday, members of the Karnataka dressing room were chit-chatting with a man wearing the green practice jersey of Assam.
The mutual respect and camaraderie, especially between them, was noticeable. And understandable too. After all, Sunil Joshi, the Assam coach, is a Karnataka stalwart. All his 479 wickets in the Ranji Trophy – the third-highest in the history of India’s premier domestic tournament – were for Karnataka.
With former Karnataka batsman Amit Verma having been roped in by Assam, thanks to Joshi at the start of the season, the Ranji Trophy Group B tie could well be billed as the face-off between Karnataka and mini-Karnataka.
“Known faces in the opposition, feels nice,” Joshi said, with a trademark beam. “They have done well in the last game. I am sure their confidence will be high. Good for us that we are looking at a fresh start. Hopefully we can do well.”
The ‘fresh start’ would indeed be a tough ask for Assam if it is to match the eight-time Ranji champion. With a solitary point from three games, Assam is placed at the bottom of the group. Karnataka, on the other hand, is aiming to top the charts with a sterling show over the next four days, on the back of a scintillating win by an innings against a formidable Delhi outfit last week.
In the absence of captain Vinay Kumar, who has been sidelined due to a calf strain, young Karun Nair led the team against Delhi last week. With Vinay yet to recover, Nair will continue to be in charge of an in-form unit.
Just like Karnataka, Assam will be fretting over the fitness of its key pacer Abu Nechim Ahmed. The lone Assamese to have featured in IPL missed Assam’s drawn tie against Vidarbha last week. But coach Joshi was confident Ahmed will take the field come Thursday.
After making a mockery of a team as strong as Delhi, Karnataka may well feel complacent while facing Assam.
However, Nair was confident that factor will not seep into his team’s play. “We are looking to play to our strength and we are looking to get better at our game. It doesn’t matter who [we] are playing against,” he said.
“After all, it’s just a game between bat and ball. We are trying to play to our potential and get better with each game.”
Assam: Gokul Sharma (capt), K.B. Arun Karthik (wk), Syed Mohammed, Amit Verma, Tarjinder Singh, Rahul Hazarika, Pallav Das, Rishav Das, Arup Das, Krishna Das, Abu Nechim Ahmed, Kunal Saikia, Sib Sankar Roy, Dhiraj Goswami, Sarupam Purkayastha.
Karnataka: Karun Nair (capt), Samarth R., Mayank Agarwal, Robin Uthappa, Mir Kaunain Abbas, C.M. Gautam (wk), Stuart Binny, Abhimanyu Mithun, Shreyas Gopal, K. Gowtham, S. Aravind, Abrar Kazi, Pavan Deshpande, Arjun Hoysala, Ronit More, R. Vinay Kumar.
Umpires: Paschim Pathak and Navdeep Singh.
Match referee: Daniel Manohar.
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