Karnataka are set to take on Maharashtra in the Ranji Trophy 2013-14 final in Hyderabad. The Vinay Kumar-led side had an impressive run leading up to the final as they won five league matches, before beating Uttar Pradesh in the quarter-final and entering the final on the basis of a first-innings lead in the semi-final against Punjab.
They are, however, without two players who have played an important role in the team earlier in the season. Pacer HS Sharath, who is their second highest wicket-taker with 32 wickets from seven matches, is unfit, while all-rounder Stuart Binny is away on national duty. The leading run-getter for the team, Lokesh Rahul (873 runs from nine matches) and Abhimanyu Mithun (36 wickets from nine matches), Manish Pandey, Karun Nair and the captain himself will play crucial roles in the Ranji final.
While talking about the opposition, the Karnataka captain said, “They are a good side. We are not thinking too much about the other team. We are concentrating on our strengths and we have never really thought about what are the strengths of the opponents.”
Reflecting on the importance of playing the final of the coveted tournament, he added, “It’s a great opportunity for both teams. Reaching the final is a great achievement. First innings will be very crucial and hopefully we will have a good game.”
The team could have a slight advantage on account of the experienced campaigners in the side. Discussing his team composition, Vinay said, “Eight players in the 15 (-member squad have) played in the final the last time Karnataka reached it. (Karnataka last played in the Ranji Trophy final in 2009-10 and lost to Mumbai). Everyone is very eager to turn it around. Our main aim has been to win the Ranji Trophy this time. All the boys have been doing well right from the first game and now this is the time for us to play to our potential. And if we do this, then we can win it.”
“Maharashtra is a new side. We know what is the pressure of a final and that will be a plus point for us,” he added while talking about the pressure of playing a final.
Their team’s performance leading up to the final, to finish at the top of Group A, has been commendable. Looking back on their journey so far, he said, “Actually, it is a great achievement of the team coming back in games where we conceded the lead and we came back. We were in tough situations. We hadn't thought that we would win so many games outright. Each of the players has played to their strength right from the start. And if we do the small things right, the big things will take care of themselves. We just think of the session and what we need to do in the session.”
Speaking about the wicket, he opined, “This wicket is different. Toss will be a factor. It is a dry wicket and in comparison to medium pace, spinners will have the upper hand.”