Focus more on the nature of the pitch even as past performances take a back seat

Maharashtra has seen the two sides of the wicket at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, here.

In the 2011 season, thanks to the left-arm spinner Akshay Darekar’s 13 for 68, it recorded an innings win against Hyderabad inside two days in a Plate Group match.  And, in November 2013, Maharashtra recorded its (then) highest-ever total, scoring 616 for nine declared against Hyderabad (later, within a week against Goa it scored 635), witnessing the situation of not even one innings completed.

So, when the two-time champion side, led by Rohit Motwane who was interestingly the captain on both the above instances, takes on six-time title-holder Karnataka in the five-day Ranji Trophy final starting from Wednesday, the focus should be more on the nature of the pitch even as past performances take a back seat.

With the BCCI pitches and grounds committee chairman Daljit Singh and P.R. Viswanathan, BCCI curator (South) closely monitoring the preparations of the pitch, HCA curator Y. L. Chandrasekhar promises it to be a sporting track though lot of cricket was played on it in the recent past.

Consistent batting

Quite predictably, Maharashtra pins lots of hopes on its consistent batting line-up comprising Kedar Jadhav, the leading scorer with 1074 runs from 10 games with five hundreds this season, Harshad Khadiwale (980 from 10 games with three centuries), Ankit Bawne, Sangram Atitkar and India under-19 captain Vijay Zol.

Maharashtra’s bowling has variety with medium-pacers Samad Fallah, Srikanth Mundhe, Anupam Sanklecha sharing 83 wickets and are ably supported by slow bowler Akshay Darekar (32 wickets).

By all means, Vinay Kumar-led Karnataka should look for a complete all-round display against a team whose confidence is on a high this season.

Well equipped

The youthful batting comprising Lokesh Rahul, Karun Nair, Manish Pandey, Mayank Agarwal and Amit Verma, who scored a century in the only Ranji game he played this season, and the experience of India discard Robin Uthappa and Chidhambaram Gautam will back itself to handle any kind of challenge on any pitch.

In bowling, it was again young blood like Hosagivappa Sharath (32 wickets but now injured and out of action), leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal (18 from four games), right-arm mediumpacer Abhimanyu Mithun (36 wickets) which played a big role in the team reaching the final.

Maharashtra coach Surendra Bhave says the boys are not scared of anything and really confident about taking the contest session by session as they have done right through the season.

Karnataka captain Vinay Kumar reminded that they would be thinking more about their strong-points than about the opposition. “The pitch looks good and should produce a result as it can help both the bowlers and the batsmen,” he added.

The teams (from):

Karnataka: R. Vinay Kumar (captain), Robin Uthappa, Lokesh Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, C.M. Gautam (vice-captain & wk), Shreyas Gopal, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ronit More, Abrar Kazi, K.P. Appanna, Ganesh Satish, Amit A. Verma and S. Arvind.

Maharashtra:  Rohit Motwani (captain & wk), Harshad Khadiwale, Chirag Khurana, Kedar Jadhav, Sangram Atitkar, Ankit Bawne, Anupam Sanklecha, Akshay Darekar, Pushkraj Chavan, Samad Fallah, Shrikant Mundhe, Vijay Zol, Dominic Muthuswamy, Nikhil Naik and Rahul Tripathi

Umpires: C. Shamshuddin & Anil K. Choudhary. Third umpire: O. Nandan. Match referee: Col. Chinmaya Sharma.

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