Karnataka v Maharashtra, Ranji Trophy 2013-14, final

Clash of equals in big final

The Preview by Karthik Krishnaswamy in Hyderabad

January 28, 2014

Comments: 19 | Text size: A | A
'Positivity makes this Maharashtra team stand out' - Surendra Bhave

Karnataka likely to field two-pronged spin attack

  • The 2013-14 Ranji Trophy season has been defined by spicy pitches and outright results. Oddly enough, it will come to an end at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, which, so far this season, has produced four drawn games and zero outright results. Two of the four games didn't see 20 wickets fall, never mind 40, in four days. One of them involved Maharashtra, who, declared on 650 for 9, with an hour still left to play on the second day, and had still not bowled Hyderabad out at stumps on day four.
  • The pitch was under wraps on the eve of the final, but having taken a look at it before the covers went on, both teams agreed that it wouldn't be as unhelpful to the bowlers.
  • "This wicket is different," said Vinay Kumar, Karnataka's captain. "Toss will be a factor. It is a dry wicket and comparing medium pace and spin, spinners will have the upper hand."
  • Surendra Bhave, Maharashtra's coach, used the word "sporting" while assessing the pitch, and said it was slightly on the rougher side. "There is a little bit of grass on the pitch," he added. "It's live grass and it's not completely bare."
  • J Arun Kumar, Karnataka's batting coach, said the patches of grass weren't located in areas that would enthuse most fast bowlers. "It's sort of back of a length," he said. "Maybe [Abhimanyu] Mithun could use it, since he hits the pitch hard. Reverse-swing could also play a role."
  • With all this in mind, Karnataka will reinstate left-arm spinner KP Appanna and field him in a two-pronged spin attack alongside legspinner Shreyas Gopal. It remains to be seen if Appanna will replace the extra batsman who played against Punjab or Ronit More, the third seamer.
  • Maharashtra already have two spinners in Akshay Darekar - who took 8 for 20 at this venue two years ago, when his side beat Hyderabad in two days - and allrounder Chirag Khurana. The one change they are likely to make could see seam-bowling allrounder Shrikant Mundhe, who has recovered from the hamstring injury that kept him out of the semifinal, return in place of Domnic Joseph.

It's been just over a year since Maharashtra last met Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy. The result of that match sent Karnataka into the quarter-finals and Maharashtra down to Group C.

Now, they meet again, as equals, on neutral territory. They meet in the final of the Ranji Trophy. Before looking ahead, though, it might be worthwhile to look back at that previous meeting.

Relegation had become a reality for Maharashtra on the third morning of that match; responding to Karnataka's 572, they had crashed from 68 for 1 to 99 all out. Following on, they batted much better, and were bowled out late on the final day for 561. It left Karnataka 89 to get in 13 overs to reach the quarter-finals. They romped home in 11.4 overs.

For Maharashtra, it was a crushing defeat, at the end of a chastening season. It was New Year's Day. It was time for change.

Change has certainly taken place. Maharashtra wouldn't be in the final otherwise. But you won't see it on their team sheet. Seven players who were part of that defeat will almost certainly play on Wednesday. Karnataka's first eleven, in fact, has gone through more of a shake-up over the last year than Maharashtra's.

"I think the players are the same," said Surendra Bhave, Maharashtra's coach, on the eve of the final. "It was the self-belief that was going to be important. The players learn much better when the team is winning. Sometimes you say that losing and defeats teach you a lot of lessons. That might be true but I feel wins make a big difference. As a unit when you become confident, it shows in your performances."

Rohit Motwani, their captain, said Bhave's appointment as coach, late last season, helped the team gel. "This team was performing well individually until last year," Motwani said. "There was guidance that was needed for the team to come together. The only thing was a coach who could understand the scenario of our team and once that happened, the team picked up."

Assessing the opposing line-ups, therefore, isn't an easy task. At one level, Karnataka are favourites. They have the bigger names, by far. Three of their players have played for the national side, and have 99 India caps between them. None of the Maharashtra players have any international experience. None of them have even played a Ranji Trophy final. Karnataka were in a final four years ago. They lost that final narrowly, and some of their players are still smarting from that defeat. Eight of them are still in their squad.

But all this was true even before these two sides last met. This Maharashtra team, while more or less comprising the same players, is very different. Five of their batsmen have 500-plus runs and 50-plus averages this season. Three of their bowlers have taken 30 wickets or more. They beat Mumbai, in Mumbai, after conceding a 122-run first-innings lead. They brushed Bengal aside in three days.

Against that, Karnataka have the awe-inspiring fact of having won six matches outright, in a row. They probably would have won a seventh if the weather had been less of a factor in their semifinal against Punjab. They have won from all kinds of positions. They were 86 for 7, chasing 97, against Haryana. They were 32 for 2 after conceding an 18-run first-innings lead to Mumbai. They were 73 for 4 replying to Delhi's 202. They were 15 for 3, with three batsmen dismissed for ducks, against Uttar Pradesh. They weren't necessarily life-threatening situations, but they were difficult places to be in. Karnataka recovered each time, and won each of those matches outright.

Each time, someone put his hand up, and it wasn't necessarily the same face all the time. It's an instructive fact that eight different batsmen have scored centuries for Karnataka this season.

"It is a great achievement of the team, coming back in games where we conceded the lead," said Vinay Kumar, Karnataka's captain. "We were in tough situations. We hadn't thought that we would win so many games outright. Each of the players have 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 it."

Bhave said much the same thing, when asked how he planned to help the Maharashtra players deal with the pressure of being in a final.

"The usual trick used there is that you keep saying that it's just another game but everyone knows it's not," Bhave said. "So [we are] giving it due importance but then again we have concentrated throughout the season about playing the session correctly. Winning the session is important. So once again it is a session-to-session and a day-to-day process for the side. Winning all those games will definitely have a bearing on how we play this particular match."

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by android_user on (February 1, 2014, 10:47 GMT)

come on Karnataka v want cup.

Posted by   on (January 31, 2014, 10:44 GMT)

Come on Karnataka, u have to bring back d cup.

Posted by   on (January 29, 2014, 8:45 GMT)

@ಸಿದ್ದರಾಜು ವಳಗೆರೆಹಳ್ಳಿ ಬೋರೇಗವ್ಡ : Seriosly International....You want Karnataka and Maharastra to be different nation not happy being in India!!!!!!

Posted by   on (January 29, 2014, 8:43 GMT)

Its a good batting surface..Karnataka will win

Posted by android_user on (January 29, 2014, 7:23 GMT)

Karnataka is gonna come out unbeatable this time.... Common Karnataka gedhu Bani

Posted by android_user on (January 29, 2014, 7:18 GMT)

This time robin knock

Posted by ToTellUTheTruth on (January 29, 2014, 5:16 GMT)

Where/How in the world can we watch this game live? The cricket channels in US are filled with that boring BAN/SL test match, like any one else cares. I want to watch this game. Please help.

Posted by android_user on (January 29, 2014, 4:40 GMT)

Best luck to both the teams. I will be in fever of Maharashtra. Karnatak team is so strong to beat.

Posted by android_user on (January 29, 2014, 3:42 GMT)

This time for MAHARASHTRA, watch out for Kedar Jadhav. I won't be surprised if I see him playing in blue jearsy in coming few days. India calling KEDAR, come on :-)

Posted by RajeshNaik on (January 29, 2014, 1:50 GMT)

This season Karnataka have often put themselves in a hole and then climbed out of it. But in this match, I do not think Maharashtra would allow them to climb out of it if they again get in to it! So, a good match on the cards. Karnataka may have a good bowling attack. But that would not count at all.

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