With 938 runs from 13 innings, CM Gautam (left) has been the only consistent Karnataka batsman this season
Is this where the Ranji Trophy quarters are going to be held?” Stuart Binny, Karnataka’s captain, wondered aloud as he entered the ground at the University of Saurashtra.
With the main Rajkot ground being readied for the first India- England ODI, and the other Madhavrao Scindia ground already booked for other purposes, the premier tournament’s quarters is being played at a venue which isn’t ready for it.
Incredibly, the pitch according to Karnataka camp, was prepared only on Friday. “Such an important game, I believe till yesterday there was no wicket at all,” J Abhiram, Karnataka’s manager, said.
“So I really don’t know if it’s an underprepared wicket, I really don’t know. There’s too much water on it, it looks like they’ve made a wicket in a day or two. They could have played this game in Bangalore, you know, in these kinds of condition.”
Even Jaydev Shah, Saurashtra’s captain, was puzzled about the state of the pitch. “We don’t know if they’ll still roll (the pitch). Because we don’t know how the wicket will react. It’s the first time ever we’re playing here. We’ve not played any district level or at any level here. I’ve not played.
Don’t think Cheteshwar has played here either.” The two teams shouldn’t have been here but here they are, facing each other in the quarter-finals. Both Karnataka and Saurashtra looked dead a couple of games before this stage but they have somehow managed to dig deep within themselves and produced a turnaround to enter the final eight.
Saurashtra beat Madhya Pradesh in difficult circumstances to enter the final eight and Karnataka beat Maharasthra and just about managed to sneak through to this round. Karnataka reckon the black soil of the pitch will probably make it a slow turner and have brought back KP Appanna for Ronit More. And they might play either SK Moinuddin or K Gowtham to partner Appanna.
The pace attack will miss the services of the injured R Vinay Kumar and will feature Abhimanyu Mithun and HS Sharath. Batting has been the Achilles heel for Karnataka this season. No one barring CM Gautam, who scored 938 runs from 13 innings, has shown any consistency.
They will hope that Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey will perform on the big stage. On an underprepared wicket, the Karnataka line-up will be severely tested by the left-arm spinner Darmendrasinh Jadeja, who ransacked MP, and Kamlesh Makva- na.
Also, Saurasthra have been boosted by the presence of Cheteshwar Pujara, who hit a double ton against MP. Some might say they were lucky but Karnataka believe they deserve to be in this stage.
“Of course, we earned this,” Abhiram said. “If we look at the points table, it was all touch and go, except for UP and Punjab in the A Group, anyone could have made it to the quarterfinals. The way we played in Pune, the effect was fantastic. We deserve to be here. We’re a side who should definitely be in the knockout, we are one of the best in the country, so we definitely have to be in the knockout.”
Karnataka: Stuart Binny (captain), Robin Uthappa, KL Rahul, Kunal Kapoor, Ganesh Satish, Manish Pandey (vice-captain), CM Gautam (wicketkeeper), Amit Verma, K Gowtham, Abhimanyu Mithun, KP Appanna, HS Sharath, SL Akshay, SK Moinuddin, Karun Nair.
Saurashtra: Jaydev Shah (captain), Sithanshu Kotak, Sheldon Jackson, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rahul Dave, Aarpit Vasavada, Chirag Jani, Kamlesh Makvana, Vishal Joshi, Darmendrasinh Jadeja, Jaydev Unadkat, Sagar Jogiyani, Sandip Maniar, Siddarth Trivedi, Saurya Sanandiya.
Bhajji keen to impress
Out-of-favour India off-spinner and Punjab skipper Harbhajan Singh yesterday said he is determined to perform in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal clash against Jharkhand and stage a comeback to the national side for the one-day series against England.
“I’ll put my best in the quarter final match against Jharkhand and try to return to the Indian team,” the 32-year-old cricketer said on the sidelines of his team’s practice session at Keenan stadium in Jamshedpur. Harbhajan, however, refused to comment on the recent performances of the Indian team in the ongoing ODI series against Pakistan.?
Mumbai enjoy edge
Sachin Tendulkar during practice
Mumbai, bidding to bag their 40th Ranji Trophy crown, start firm favourites against west zone rivals Baroda in the five-day quarterfinals commencing at Wankhede Stadium today. With the experienced lot of Sachin Tendulkar, skipper Ajit Agarkar and opener Wasim Jaffer to guide their fortunes, the hosts carry too many guns for the comfort of their rivals who will be without two key players -- allrounder Irfan Pathan and fast bowler Munaf Patel -- both injured. Yusuf Pathan, who has been out of action since breaking a finger in the league game at home against Vidarbha will lead the Baroda side.
Up on high
Uttar Pradesh who emerged run-away winners in Group B are on a high ahead of their quarter-finals against Services that will be played at Indore's Holkar Stadium . UP garnered 33 points but more importantly beat some domestic heavyweights enroute to the last eight. Opener Mukul Dagar will be their main batsman whereas Services will be relying on their pace attack of Suraj Yadav (32 wickets), Nishan Singh (20 wickets) and Shabhab Nazar (25 wickets) to deliver the goods . UP will miss the services of allrounder Bhubaneswar Kumar, who did brilliantly both with the bat and ball at the start of the season.
South Africa’s Adrian Holdstock and England’s Rob Bailey will be among the on-field officials for the quarterfinal and semifinal clashes of the Ranji Trophy as part of the BCCI’s Umpires Exchange Programmes. “Umpires Adrian Holdstock and Rob Bailey are presently in India to officiate in the Ranji Trophy knockout matches, under the Umpires Exchange Programmes that the BCCI has signed with Cricket South Africa and the England and Wales Cricket Board respectively,” BCCI Secretary Sanjay Jagdale said. Holdstock will be one of the umpires in the Mumbai-Baroda game.