Fresh from their exploits in the final Test versus England, India’s new batting stars Karun Nair and KL Rahul will be aiming to send an inexperienced Tamil Nadu attack sans world’s leading off-spinner R Ashwin on a leatherhunt in a Ranji Trophy quarter-final on Friday.
The absence of Ashwin and Murali Vijay against a full Karnataka side will definitely hurt Tamil Nadu. Ashwin is taking rest as he is suffering from sports hernia after a stellar all-round performance through the year earned him ICC’s ‘Cricketer of the Year’ award. Vijay is out with a shoulder injury sustained while fielding during Chennai Test.
With the distinction of being India’s second triple centurion, Karun’s presence can be intimidating for a pace attack with a combined experience of 35 first-class matches. Pacer Krishnamoorthy Vignesh has 32 wickets in his first season but bowling with a new ball against Rahul, who has just scored 199 in a Test match will not be the easiest of assignments.
He will be assisted by Anthony Aswin Crist, who has 27 wickets to his name and is the ‘senior-most’ in this attack with T Natarajan completing the set-up.
It’s not only about Nair and Rahul, who are India internationals but Karnataka has been a formidable domestic unit in recent years winning Ranji Trophy twice. With Robin Uthappa already dropped from the side, it still bears a menacing look with Manish Pandey at their disposal. Even though Pandey in his three first-class games has scored only 188 runs with 75 being his highest score.
But opener Ravikumar Samarth with 681 runs and India discard Stuart Binny with 471 runs have been consistent throughout the season.
Karnataka’s bowling has depended over the years on their mercurial skipper R Vinay Kumar, who has again topped the team’s wicket-takers’ list with 27 wickets along with rookie off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham. Left-arm seamer Srinath Aravind is not far behind with 26 wickets while leg-spinner Shreyash Gopal has 21 wickets. Not to forget the 296 runs that Gopal has contributed with the bat down the order.
They would have to deal with Vinay and co in absence of a solid opener and a proven performer like Vijay.