Ranji Trophy: Tamil Nadu faces Karun-Rahul Test in quarterfinals

The expectations will be high when Vinay Kumar’s Karnataka takes on Tamil Nadu led by Abhinav Mukund in a much-awaited Ranji Trophy quarterfinal from Friday.

Opener K.L. Rahul and Karun Nair, who pulverised the English attack at Chepauk, lead a powerful Karnataka batting line-up.   -  Vivek Bendre

This is the Southern Derby with an enriching past and it has thrown up vignettes that are timeless. To the connoisseurs, the sight of S. Venkataraghavan and V.V. Kumar bowling at Gundappa Viswanath or Erapalli Prasanna and Bhagwat Chandrasekar operating to T.E. Srinivasan was an aesthetically fulfilling experience.

Apart from being intensely competitive, those duels also celebrated the beauty of the game.

The expectations will be high when Vinay Kumar’s Karnataka takes on Tamil Nadu led by Abhinav Mukund in a much-awaited Ranji Trophy quarterfinal here from Friday.

It’s a pity Ravichandran Ashwin and Murali Vijay, the two biggest names from either teams, will not figure in what should be engrossing clash.

Opener K.L. Rahul and Karun Nair, who pulverised the English attack at Chepauk, lead a powerful Karnataka line-up that has considerable depth with batsmen such as wicketkeeper C.M. Gautam, and all-rounders Stuart Binny and Shreyas Gopal following the specialists.

On the eve of the match, both teams had a good look at a surprisingly grass-laden surface. This track appears different from the one on which India and England played the second Test here.

The captain getting the spin of the coin right will have to make an important decision. Should he opt to bowl and make inroads on what could be surface assisting seamers. Or back his batsmen to survive the first couple of hours with minimum damage, build a sizable first innings total and be in a position to bowl last and possibly exploit a deteriorating pitch.

Karnataka has an excellent domestic pace combination with Vinay Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun and left-armer S. Arvind backed by support seamer Stuart Binny.

Tamil Nadu too has impressed with its buzzing pace attack this season. Aswin Crist, K. Vignesh and left-arm seamer T. Natarajan have bowled their team to crucial victories in the league phase.

Skipper Mukund and wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik have been among big runs for Tamil Nadu. And the compact Kaushik Gandhi has been a revelation for the side at No. 3, displaying both technique and concentration.

Tamil Nadu, though, has a problem with the second opener’s slot. L. Suryaprakash may hang on to his spot or may be replaced by left-hander Ganga Sridhar Raju or the aggressive N. Jagadeesan. Jagadeesan has a century under his name this season, albeit lower down the order.

This pitch could develop cracks as the match progresses – in fact leaving grass on the surface could be a ploy to bind the track and prevent it from breaking – and spinners could come into play later in the game.

Yet, the indications are that Tamil Nadu – driven by pace this season - might not play a second specialist spinner, relying predominantly on Aushik Srinivas’ left-arm spin.

For Karnataka off-spinner K. Gowtham, this has been a breakthrough season.

The teams (from):

Tamil Nadu: Abhinav Mukund (capt.), Vijay Shankar, N. Jagadeesan, Kaushik Gandhi, Dinesh Karthik, B. Indrajith, B. Aparajith, K. Vignesh, Aswin Crist, T. Natarajan, Aushik Srinivas, L. Suryaparkash, Malolan Rangarajan, Rahil Shah, Ganga Sridhar Raju.

Karnataka: Vinay Kumar (capt.), Karun Nair, K.L. Rahul, R. Samarth, Manish Pandey, Stuart Binny, Kaunain Abbas, C.M. Gautham, Shreyas Gopal, A. Mithun, S. Arvind, K. Gowtham, Pavan Deshpande, Abrar Kazi, David Mathias and Mayank Agarwal.