Devendra Bundela symbolises the spirit of Madhya Pradesh cricket. Never short of motivation, he brings a certain degree of tenacity and enthusiasm that is infectious. “We play as a unit,” he insisted on Thursday, ahead of the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal clash with Karnataka at the Holkar Stadium here.

With an experience of 15 seasons and 100 first-class matches behind him, Bundela has been leading by example, guiding Madhya Pradesh to the Super League. His aggregate of 500 with three centuries complements the efforts of Naman Ojha (545) and Mohnish Mishra (543), the key batsmen in the team.

Rich history

Bundela's counterpart, R. Vinay Kumar, has had a specific role to play too. Captaincy brought extra responsibility on his 26-year-old shoulders and he has managed to string the team together. “I am enjoying my job. Actually, it is a privilege to lead a team that had players like Anil (Kumble) and Rahul (Dravid) as captains. Karnataka cricket has a rich history and this team is aiming to enrich it further,” said Vinay.

The teams have made confident strides to set up this contest. Karnataka, with three wins and three draws, topped its group with 23 points while Madhya Pradesh cruised through, also without losing any match.

“Last season we suffered from some matches being washed out. But this year it has been a wonderful journey for us,” said Bundela.

Batting has remained Madhya Pradesh's strength but the bowlers have played their part with distinction too. Seamers T.P. Sudhindra (23), Anand Rajan (19) and Amit Sharma (17) have performed under pressure.

“We all realised early in the season that we need to perform collectively. For the team to gain recognition, it is important to perform. We have learnt this aspect well. We want Madhya Pradesh to do well. The State has backed us all the way and we owe our supporters a decent show. We belong to the Elite group and would love to prove it against Karnataka,” Bundela affirmed.

Karnataka has a reputation to live up to. For some years, it has emerged the most compact domestic combination with a constant supply of quality players making their impression. Manish Pandey (556), Amit Verma (497) and Robin Uthappa (407) have shown excellent form with support from C.M. Gautam, Stuart Binny and Ganesh Satish.

“We have an excellent bunch,” noted Vinay.

Keywords: Ranji Trophy

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