Having floundered on similar late hurdles for a few years now, Karnataka may be forgiven for approaching this Ranji Trophy quarterfinal with some edginess.
Instead, ahead of its meeting with Uttar Pradesh at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here from Wednesday, there hangs an air of bright expectation over the side.
“We need to break the jinx,” Karnataka’s batting coach J. Arunkumar said after practice on Tuesday. “There is confidence all round.” Even the players have sung from the same hymn sheet over the last month or so: ‘We have to win the thing this time.’
Arunkumar said he saw shades of the successive title-winning sides of 1997-98 and 98-99 (among whom he starred) in the current crop.
He should be allowed that comparison, however rose-tinted it may seem; his men have won five on the bounce now and advanced to the knock-outs with a better record than any team in the land.
Manish Pandey has been batting with a spontaneity absent last season; K.L. Rahul has gathered close to 800 runs at over 70; the seamers H.S. Sharath and Abhimanyu Mithun have snaffled 60 wickets between them; and Robin Uthappa, who’s played only twice in an injury-plagued term, is back. It is all very encouraging and on home soil Karnataka should consider itself in good shape to advance.
The absence of the New Zealand-bound Stuart Binny, who busied himself in the nets at the National Cricket Academy, will be one incurable problem, though.
Standing in Karnataka’s path is one of its own sons, the Uttar Pradesh coach Venkatesh Prasad.
While his counterpart considers replacements for Binny, Prasad will be fretting over the unavailability of Suresh Raina and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. However, there will be comfort in the return of R.P. Singh – named captain here – and Mohammad Kaif.
Uttar Pradesh won only twice in the group stages, Singh’s hand crucial in both outcomes. A good effort will be required here.
The pitch was a light shade of green on the eve of the game, but it could change character over the five days.
The teams (from):
Karnataka: R. Vinay Kumar (capt.), C.M. Gautam, Robin Uthappa, K.L. Rahul, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, R. Samarth, Shreyas Gopal, Ronit More, A. Mithun, H.S. Sharath, Abrar Kazi, Ganesh Satish, Amit Verma, and K.P. Appanna.
Uttar Pradesh: R.P. Singh (capt.), Tanmay Srivastava, Mukul Dagar, Prashant Gupta, Mohammad Kaif, Parvinder Singh, Umang Sharma, Arish Alam, Eklavya Dwivedi, Amir Khan, Imtiaz Ahmed, Amit Mishra, Piyush Chawla, Ali Murtaza, Ankit Rajpoot, Praveen Gupta, and Kuldeep Yadav.