Ranji Trophy: Softened-up Karnataka, Maharashtra to face off

Maharashtra is looking for points and Karnataka is aiming to redeem its seriously-bruised pride in their final Ranji Trophy league match beginning here on Wednesday.

Despite not doing well in the last two games, against Odisha and Saurashtra, Karnatak has already qualified for the knockout phase.   -  Shivkumar Pushpakar

Maharashtra is looking for points and Karnataka is aiming to redeem its seriously-bruised pride in their final Ranji Trophy league match beginning here on Wednesday.

After losing to Odisha by an innings and bringing it into contention for a quarterfinal berth, Maharashtra is desperate for points needed to qualify.

At present, Maharashtra (21 points) is involved in three-way race, with Odisha (22) and Delhi (21), for the third and final qualifying spot left in group B, behind leader Jharkhand (32) and Karnataka (30).

Maharashtra’s skipper Swapnil Gugale asserted the team would do everything to qualify without being bothered about how Delhi (against Saurashtra) and Odisha (against Jharkhand) were doing in their matches.

“We are aware Karnataka did not do well in its last two games (conceded lead to Odisha and lost to Saurashtra). Plus, we came out superior when we played them last year. But given the equation (pertaining to the qualification race in the group), we will have to prove superior to keep alive our chances to qualify,” said the 25-year-old Gugale, leading the State team this season.

On the other hand, Karnataka skipper Vinay Kumar had reasons to be far less desperate, having qualified for the knockout phase after a year, despite the past two forgettable weeks when things went awry.

“We are keen to get back our winning momentum. The advantage, I have, is that most of my team members are experienced, the batting runs deep and we have the bowlers to get 20 wickets,” said Vinay.

Talking about the shock loss to Saurashtra last week in Patiala, Vinay said, “We did not bat well. We have six specialist batsmen and require only a couple of them to bat big. That did not happen. But the defeat has served as a much-needed wake-up call. We will go all out for a win, most probably with three fast bowlers and two spinners.”

With an off-form opener Mayank Agarwal returning home, Vinay indicated that debutants Pawan Deshpande or Arjun Hoysala would get to debut.

For Maharashtra, Kedar Jadhav is back after nursing a sprained shoulder that kept him away last week. Medium-pacer Anupam Sachlecha, with 40 wickets so far this season, could well be a factor in the conditions here.

More than the bowling, Maharashtra’s batting failure in two matches – opener against Jharkhand and last week against Odisha – led to defeats. Ironically, Maharashtra recorded innings victories against Vidarbha and Assam in succession before getting a taste of its own medicine.

The teams, a bit softened up by defeats last week, should come hard at each other.

The teams (from):

Karnataka: R. Vinay Kumar (captain), Manish Pandey, R. Samarth, Robin Uthappa, C.M. Gautam, Stuart Binny, Shreyas Gopal, S. Arvind, A. Mithun, Abrar Kazi, Mir Kaunanin Abbas, David Mathias, Arjun Hoysala, K. Gowtham, Pawan Deshpande and Ronit More.

Maharashtra: Swapnil Gugale (captain), Murtaza Trunkwala, Naushad Shaikh, Ankit Bawne, Chirag Khurana, Vishant More, Akshay Darekar, Anupam Sanklecha, Mohsin Sayyed, Satyajeet Bachchav, Harshad Khadiwale, Rahul Tripathi, Pradeep Dahade, Prayag Bhatti and Shrikant Munde.