Ranji Trophy Preview: Unbeaten Karnataka favourites against J&K
Hubli (Karnataka), January 4 (IANS)
With three wins in a row, title holders Karnataka would be looking to ride the success wave when they take on Jammu and Kashmir in a Group A league match of the Ranji Trophy cricket tournament starting here from Monday.
The visitors, whose claim to fame this season has been their stunning and maiden win over multiple champions Mumbai in the opening fixture, have somewhat tapered off since, drawing two games and losing heavily to Tamil Nadu in their other outings prior to arriving here.
Karnataka have remained unbeaten despite the absence of Lokesh Rahul
In sharp contrast, Karnataka, ably led by seamer Vinay Kumar, have put in strong all-round performances to remain unbeaten and head the group.
Though without star batsman Lokesh Rahul who is away on national duty in Australia, Karnataka have found match-winners in other players, notably pacemen Srinath Aravind (18 wickets) and Abhimanyu Mithun (11), besides Vinay Kumar (16) himself has been outstanding.
Also, when occasion demanded, like against Bengal, Karnataka have batted deep and, in fact, their only centurion this season has been leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal, who scored 145 in Kolkata during his record 148-run partnership for the last wicket with Aravind.
On the other hand, Jammu and Kashmir have not displayed an equal measure of consistency, be it in batting which has fared better or bowling where they have struggled to take 20 wickets, except against Mumbai.
Under the circumstances, Karnataka, fresh from Christmas and New Year break of two weeks, will start odds-on favourites while the visitors, who made the long haul from Kanpur to Hubli after their weather-affected draw against Uttar Pradesh, will have to raise their game to even be on pace with the hosts, much less win.