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Travails of Karnataka's cricket tragics: 5 most heartbreaking Ranji Trophy losses of state team

Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Karnataka with the Ranji Trophy!
Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Karnataka with the Ranji Trophy!
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Ramachandra M

If you scrutinize the cricket history, you’ll discover that the quality domestic cricket teams, too, have enjoyed a huge fan following over the years. Yorkshire, New South Wales, and Mumbai have been the top domestic teams of England, Australia, and India respectively.

Fans have revelled in the joy of their favourite domestic team's victories and sulked during their losses. It's quite a phenomenon! Mumbai have been a power-house of Indian cricket for decades and have dominated the domestic circuit.

It was a spirited Karnataka team under the legendary Erapalli Prasanna that halted Bombay’s juggernaut for the very first time, in the 1973/74 Ranji Trophy.

That win of Karnataka pretty much made all other teams believe that Bombay was beatable, and gave them the hope to punch above their weight. In this regard, that triumph of Karnataka is considered the watershed moment in Indian domestic cricket history — a win that the team's fans still fondly remember.

Karnataka’s brand of cricket in Ranji Trophy

Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Big Boys of the 90s - Rahul Dravid. Javagal Srinath, Sunili Joshi, Anil Kumble, and Venkatesh Prasad
Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Enter caption Big Boys of the 90s - Rahul Dravid. Javagal Srinath, Sunili Joshi, Anil Kumble, and Venkatesh Prasad

Karnataka have been one of the biggest nurseries of Indian cricket from the 1960s. The state has produced legends aplenty who’ve shone at the international level.

But the best part of Karnataka’s legacy is that there have been batsmen (GR Viswanath, Rahul Dravid, KL Rahul), spinners (Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrashekar, Anil Kumble), seamers (Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad), and wicket-keepers (Syed Kirmani, Sadanand Viswanath) who’ve represented India with great distinction.

This is one of the rare feats that Karnataka has achieved amongst the domestic teams of India. Playing attacking cricket and winning the Ranji Trophy games outright is, apparently, Karnataka’s brand of cricket. The quality bowlers that the state has invariably produced has allowed them to register clear-cut victories rather than rely on first innings lead.

In fact, Karnataka have won the highest number of Ranji Trophy games in the last fifteen years. Mumbai at the second spot have a good eight wins lesser than Karnataka. This stat pretty much sums up their legacy and the brand of cricket they’ve been playing.

Just like any other team, Karnataka too have had their ups and downs — the waxing and waning in their performances. They started their Ranji Trophy campaign in 1934 as Mysuru and lost the very first game in a rather ignominious fashion, against Madras, in a day.

Indeed, the 9-time Ranji champs, despite their consistency and more titles than any other team except Mumbai, have given their fans a lot of heartbreaks in the last five decades.

Here are Karnataka's 5 Ranji Trophy losses that continue to haunt their fans

Semifinal vs Rajasthan (1965/66 Ranji Trophy)

Raj Singh Dungarpur (seen here with Sir Don Bradman) got Rajasthan through to an unexpected victory over Karnataka in the semifinal of 1965/66 Ranji Trophy (Image was tweeted by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Raj Singh's nephew)
Raj Singh Dungarpur (seen here with Sir Don Bradman) got Rajasthan through to an unexpected victory over Karnataka in the semifinal of 1965/66 Ranji Trophy (Image was tweeted by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Raj Singh's nephew)

The Mysuru team led by V Subramanya, despite scoring 397 runs in the first innings of this 1965/66 Ranji Trophy semifinal, faced a deficit of 61 runs, in a match at the Central College Grounds, Bengaluru.

Vijay Manjrekar scored a valiant 175 during the course of which innings, even the likes of Prasanna and Chandra couldn’t stop him. Mysuru had to win the game outright to make it to the Final. So, they batted for 60 overs, scored briskly, and declared at 243/7, setting Rajasthan a target of 183 in two sessions.

The fourth and final day’s pitch had enough assistance for the legendary spin duo of Prasanna and Chandra. They managed to pick nine wickets of Rajasthan with still 22 runs needed to win for the visiting team.

The hosts were smelling a victory with just a wicket needed. But the visitors' captain Raj Singh Dungarpur (20) and the No. 11, Sunderam (12), pulled off a heist.

The last-wicket partnership saw them home and Prasanna’s outstanding match figures of (5/162 & 7/92) went in vain. Rajasthan won by a wicket and made it to the Final of Ranji Trophy, and hapless Karnataka were left licking their wounds.


Semi-final vs Bihar (1975/76 Ranji Trophy)

Runners-up in the previous season, Karnataka were expected to trounce the less fancied Bihar in the all-important semifinal of 1975/76 Ranji Trophy. Though Karnataka were not at full strength — having lost all their stars to national duty — the VS Vijayakumar-led side had enough talent in their team to get the better of Bihar, at the latter team's homeground in Jamshedpur.

But ironically, what followed was a meek surrender — a humiliating 10-wickets loss for the favourites. AV Jayaprakash’s 102* in the second innings could not make any difference as Karnataka had scored a paltry 157 in their first innings.

R Saxena’s 143 and skipper Daljit Singh’s 81 secured a good 237-runs first innings lead for the hosts. This paved the way for Bihar's win. This is still considered one of the rarest upsets in the history of Ranji Trophy, and the fans still struggle to wrap their heads around this loss.


Final vs Delhi (1981/82 Ranji Trophy)

GR Vishwanath was one of Karnataka's best batsmen
GR Vishwanath was one of Karnataka's best batsmen

Karnataka batted first on a beauty of a track and scored 705, pummelling the hapless Delhi bowlers. As many as four batsmen scored centuries: Roger Binny (115), Brijesh Patel (124), Syed Kirmani (116), and Ranjit Khanvilkar (113).

The prospect of scoring 706 for the first innings lead could deter any team. But Delhi did not give up and responded in a fabulous fashion with Amarnath’s 185 and Gurusharan Singh’s 101.

Later, Karnataka did retaliate and had the hosts under the mat at 589/8, with all the recognised batters back in the hut, and the target still a good 117-runs away. In one of the rarest occurrences, the placid Delhi track forced the game to be pushed to the sixth day for a result.

Then followed a mind-blowing unbeaten 9th-wicket partnership between RC Shukla (69*) and R Peter (67) that tilted the Ranji Trophy towards Delhi. Karnataka players just couldn’t believe what they’d just witnessed and stood in disbelief.

Incidentally, that 67 is the only half-century scored by Peter in his first-class career. This stat should be rubbing the salt on Karnataka’s wounds even now. To lose a Ranji Trophy Final after putting over 700 runs on the board is a bitter pill to swallow. And, this loss is undoubtedly one of the most agonising things to have happened to the Karnataka fans!


Quarterfinal vs Bengal (1990/91 Ranji Trophy)

A young Rahul Dravid scored a century for Karnataka in the 1990/91 Ranji Trophy quarterfinal against Bengal (File photo | Getty Images)
A young Rahul Dravid scored a century for Karnataka in the 1990/91 Ranji Trophy quarterfinal against Bengal (File photo | Getty Images)

The quarterfinal of the 1990/91 Ranji Trophy was played at the Eden Gardens between Karnataka and Bengal. This is one of the most controversial games in the history of this tournament.

The reason for this was the baffling, inexplicable, and dreaded run-quotient rule that saw hosts Bengal through to the semis of that year's Ranji Trophy despite being stranded a good 139-runs behind Karnataka in the first innings.

Karnataka, led by veteran Syed Kirmani, put on a great batting display and reached a mammoth 791/6, in 249 overs, before declaring. Arjun Raja’s 267 — then the highest Ranji score by a Karnataka batsman, Rahul Dravid’s 134, K Jeshwanth’s 119*, and Kirmani’s 112 lifted Karnataka to its highest ever Ranji score.

Bengal responded positively with SJ Kalyani’s 260 and Snehasish Ganguly’s 118*. But they were pulled back by the Karnataka bowling trio of Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble, and Venkatesh Prasad. Bengal were reduced to 575/9 and were staring at a defeat.

Then, Snehasish Ganguly, in company of the No. 11, SJ Sen Sharma (10*), managed to delay the inevitable. With Sharma managing to hold one end, Ganguly played his shots and got their team to 652/9, in 200 overs.

Consequently, with all the five days consumed, the winner was decided by the run-quotient rule. This meant that the fact of Bengal having played 200 overs - 49 overs less than Karnataka - and having scored only 139 runs less gave them a better run-quotient: 3.26 as opposed to Karnataka’s 3.17. This pushed Bengal to the semis.

Of course, not able to dislodge the last pair and letting them score 77-runs was a failure on Karnataka’s part. But the fact remains that it was, apparently, the dodgy run-quotient rule that ended a rejuvenated young Karnataka team’s hopes.

Later, this controversial run-quotient rule was done-away with in Ranji Trophy. But this loss continues to haunt the Karnataka fans!


Quarterfinal vs Mumbai (1993/94 Ranji Trophy)

Ravi Shastri played a defiant innings against Karnataka in the 1993/94 Ranji Trophy quarterfinal to deny them victory (File photo | Getty Images)
Ravi Shastri played a defiant innings against Karnataka in the 1993/94 Ranji Trophy quarterfinal to deny them victory (File photo | Getty Images)

One spirited partnership can do wonders to the team, and Mumbai just did that to hurt Karnataka at their backyard in the quarterfinal of the 1993/94 Ranji season.

Karnataka, led by K Jeshwanth, batted first and scored 406 with the help of Kirmani’s 139 and Sunil Joshi’s 118. Later, thanks to some great bowling from the youngsters - David Johnson, Rangarao Ananth, and Joshi, the hosts managed to reduce the mighty Mumbai to 174/6.

With the target still 228 runs away and no capable batsmen to follow after the pair at the crease - Ravi Shastri and Sairaj Bahutule - Mumbai were gone for all money. But, skipper Shastri (151) and Bahutule (134*) pulled the guests out of the hole and secured a lead of 54 runs as Mumbai reached 460.

It was just a matter of one wicket but Karnataka somehow couldn’t break this partnership (259-runs) at the right time. The fact that all the three batsmen who came in after this pair was separated scored a duck only added insult to Karnataka’s injury.

But, as it was a five-day game and a good time was left in the match, Karnataka did not give up and responded with a belligerent batting display. Arun Kumar’s 105 and Dravid’s 69 propelled them to 306/5 (declared) in their second innings, in just 60 overs.

This set Mumbai a target of 253 on the last day. Karnataka still had a real chance of winning and kept believing in themselves. It must be remembered that this was a young Karnataka team that saw a lot of players graduate to the international level.

But Mumbai had other ideas. They put down the shutters and played ultra-defensively to secure a draw. Joshi’s 5/29 did reduce Mumbai to 66/5, but couldn’t make any difference to the game’s outcome as the guests hung-in and batted sedately for 82 overs - throughout the final day to reach 89/5.

It was the case of so near yet so far for Karnataka. Though this game is pretty much lost in the annals of Karnataka cricket, it was certainly one game that Karnataka should’ve won pretty easily! The hardcore fans still remember this Ranji Trophy match and whine about the outcome.


Edited by Akshay Saraswat
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