Ranji Trophy 2016-17 December 25, 2016

Karnataka's promising season meets swift end

Karnataka were expectedly among the first teams to seal a quarter-final berth after five outright wins in the league stage, but the end was swift, and shockingly so
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While Karnataka were affected by a slew of injuries, they paved the way for the return of K Gowtham, who impressed despite playing after three seasons © PTI

The Ranji Trophy is a marathon, and it has become more hectic with the introduction of neutral venues. Karnataka seemed to have trouble pacing themselves: they sprinted to four outright wins in a row at the start of the season, before tripping up against Saurashtra towards the close of the league stage, and eventually suffered a cataclysmic fall against arch-rivals Tamil Nadu in the quarter-final.

The 452 balls they faced in Visakhapatnam was their lowest in any match in the last ten seasons when they were bowled out twice.

Injury issues at different stages of their campaign did not help. Captain Vinay Kumar missed two games because of a calf injury and then worked his way through a "slight niggle" against Tamil Nadu. Abhimanyu Mithun and Manish Pandey also had to deal with injuries. Mithun, in particular, looked jaded on return and leaked 50 runs in 12 overs for two wickets in the quarter-final.

The injuries, though, paved the way for the return of offspinner K Gowtham after three seasons. He took 27 wickets in eight matches, including a career-best 7 for 108, which delivered a bonus-point win for Karnataka against Assam.

Despite the injury, Vinay had a memorable season on a personal front. He went past 400 first-class wickets and also became the highest wicket-taker among seamers in Ranji Trophy history. Left-arm seamer, S Aravind, meanwhile, played Robin to Vinay's Batman.

But Karnataka's own Robin - Uthappa - had a forgettable season. He began positively with two half-centuries in the Duleep Trophy, but his form tailed off in the Ranji Trophy, and he was ultimately left out of the quarter-final. In hindsight, Uthappa's experience might have come in handy in quarter-final, although rookie Kaunain Abbas had a decent debut stint prior to that match with four fifties.

The depth in the batting line-up came to the fore against Vidarbha in Vadodara. Seamer Lalit Yadav left Karnataka tottering at 120 for 7, but Vinay, Gowtham, and Abrar Kazi hauled their team to 267, and Karnataka won inside three days.

Few expected Karnataka to collapse twice against Tamil Nadu, especially after the return of India internationals KL Rahul, Manish Pandey and Karun Nair. The Visakhapatnam surface was green, with the ball often rearing from a good length or a back of a length, but it was not unplayable.

In the second innings, Rahul played close to the body, covered for the movement, and then briefly threw the Tamil Nadu attack off track with an assortment of upper-cuts. His opening partner, R Samarth, the only Karnataka batsman to pass 700 runs this season, went for a non-existent third run and was caught short. Stuart Binny's run-out then created another opening, and Tamil Nadu simply barged through.

Binny had also failed to score in the first innings, playing across the line to an innocuous straight ball and getting pinned in front. Abbas and Samarth were tentative in the channel outside off, and managed only six runs in 7.1 overs.

"We were probably overcautious about the wicket," J Arunkumar, the Karnataka coach had said after the first day's play. "When you are overcautious about something, your hand and feet don't move well.

"We played ten players who could bat. That's the best we could. It was just a bad day. What are the chances of none of the ten batsmen clicking? It's a bit of a shock for me."

Expectedly, Karnataka were among the first teams to seal a berth in the quarter-finals. They were set to regain their title-winning mojo after racking up five outright wins, the joint most by a side in the league stage this season. Shockingly, they were the first to be knocked out of the semi-finals.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • cricfan55734136 on December 31, 2016, 15:31 GMT

    Well done TN for dethroning KAR...Another milestone needed to be crossed in SF...beat MUM in SF...

  • Incognito_Brown on December 30, 2016, 14:09 GMT

    Uthappa's fan following based on Cricinfo comments is greater than that of Vijay, Rahul, Pujara, Rahane and of course Rohit (who is universally hated, selectors aside). Makes me wonder - How does Uthappa convince these 'fans' when he is definitely not doing so thru runs. Is he paying them to post or what!!??

  • Cricklife on December 26, 2016, 18:22 GMT

    @CRICFAN34821607 Please get your stats correct. Rahul did not debut in India. His debut was in Australia and he made a fighting century in 2nd innings on not so batting friendly pitch. Also Rahul's first 3 Test centuries came from overseas tests and Chennai century is his first in Tests in India which also shows his caliber to score on overseas pitches. Please give due credit where it is earned immaterial of which state they represent.

  • cricfan44397114 on December 26, 2016, 16:59 GMT

    @cricfan ur totally wrong about chinnaswamy atmosphere. from dis forum itself u could see @criclife being a hardcore Karnataka fan is appreciating TN and balaji and ur unnecessarily bashing rahul and nair with kumble for abhinav mukund not to forget rahul made debut in Australia which is a difficult one(sledging) for batsmen. in IPL except csk players I couldn't see any applause from TN fans even if other team plays well!

  • Cricklife on December 26, 2016, 14:49 GMT

    Being a hard core Karnataka fan, I am disappointed. However, TN played very well this season and deserved to win this match. Their pace department was better than Karnataka. Balaji should be appreciated for making their pace department a potent one which was not even a season back. They were over dependent on their spin department which is not the situation today. Their batting still needs lot of improvement as they get in to the tougher rounds. Karnataka team management should be ruthless in sacking some of the seniors who hardly contributed this season and allow youngsters to perform. It may take one or two seasons for them to settle down but it is worth investing now under the guidance of Vinay & Aravind. There is no short of talent in Karnataka but giving a long rope to few of the team members is not required at this stage. Players like Prasidh, Arjun Hoysala, Ronit More should be given opportunity as they are in fine form.

  • cricfan34821607 on December 26, 2016, 14:01 GMT

    When Rahul and Nair were given chance in india, Abhinav mukund was given chance in England tour where the whole indian team came a cropper. Is this becoz of Kumble effect?

  • cricfan34821607 on December 26, 2016, 13:32 GMT

    I have watched so many tussles between the two, both at Chepauk and at Chinnaswamy stadium. While there is acceptance and applause from spectators for players from both sides at Chepauk, it is visibly absent at Chinnaswamy stadium, bangalore. The saying that ktka team can beat even the Indian team is the best joke of this year. Gross introspection is the need of the hour for ktka, better luck next time.

  • kemukundarajanmukundarajan on December 26, 2016, 13:15 GMT

    The All Time Great Karnataka team comprised the likes of V.Subbu, G R Vishy, S M H Kiri, BSChandra, EAS Pras, Vijay kumar, B Raghu, Rao, Najam Hussain, Roger Binny and Vijay Krishna.

    None other than KLR who resembles Vijay Kumar as a dashing opener ( of course Vjay was opening the batting as well as bowling.) none other can be rated along with other greats if you take into account the facilities and equipments of the yester years. Again 60% of the team comprised of SBI recruits who bonded superbly.

  • srinivas bhanu on December 26, 2016, 10:19 GMT

    Looks like Rahul,Karun were more at ease playing the English seamers than the Tamilnadu bowlers..!!Alas what a fall to the mighty Karnataka team which boasted of at least seven players who have donned the Indian colours. Complacency seem to be the main reason and if one were to blame the pitch one should remember that even Tamilnadu has batted on the same pitch.Much din has been raised about Karnataka's defeat but nobody seem to be talking about Tamilnadus exemplary display, especially its bowlers. If the momentum is kept Tamilnadu should strike gold..!!

  • cricfan58943111 on December 26, 2016, 9:11 GMT

    Cric_Guy_Surya : Nair injured.

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