Make up or drop out
The Ranji season has reached the stage at which teams have to keep an eye on other results in their respective pools. Karnataka, sitting in fifth place in the Super League Group A with eight points from three games, will want to make the most of this match against Rajasthan. Already thrashed three times this season, the young Rajasthan team are under intense pressure to avoid relegation.
Rahul Dravid's role in Karnataka's first two games was crucial, but he and Anil Kumble are back in the Indian side and won't be returning this Ranji season and Karnataka will have to rely on their core strength going forward. The star is Robin Uthappa, but he is yet to ignite this domestic season as he did last season with his exciting hundred here at the Gangothri Glades. Thilak Naidu, the wicketkeeper-batsman, and C Raghu, the offspinning allrounder, are key players and have done well this season.
The bowling will again be led by Vinay Kumar and NC Aiyappa, the right-arm medium-pace duo, and Sunil Joshi, the veteran left-arm spinner. There's little to speak of in terms of back-up, but with Rajasthan's batting struggling so far that could well prove enough.
Gagan Khoda, who played two one-day internationals for India in 1998, is the only Rajasthan batsman in form. His 244 runs are the high for the team by some distance, and highlight his side's plight this year: they just haven't been able to put up big totals. Pankaj Singh, the 22-year-old fast bowler, has done well in the last two seasons and has India A experience. That aside, the cupboard looks fairly bare this year. Rajasthan appeared to show a bit of fight in their last game, against Maharashtra, but the bowlers need runs to defend.
A cursory palm across the surface showed it was hard, but there's a tinge of green too. Vijay Bhardwaj, Karnataka's coach, and Nagaraja, the curator, concurred in their readings of the wicket. "We've tried to make a sporting pitch," Nagaraja said. "It is definitely looking like a four-day surface, with lots of bounce for the quick bowlers. That said, it will also assist the spinners late on the second day." Bowling first may seem like an option, but it might still be better to bat first and see out the first session.
This is only the second match at Gangothri Glades since the Ranji Trophy returned to Mysore last season after 18 years. Karnataka won that match against Haryana by 253 runs, with Uthappa and Barrington Rowland lighting up the third day with a stunning 213-run opening stand. Rowland has been dropped for this game following a string of average performances following that innings.
Situated on the scenic University of Mysore campus, with the Chamundi Hills in the background, the large, tree-ringed ground bore a festive look.
Shamianas (tents) were being set up, as were loudspeakers and an array of coloured chairs. A good amount of sponsorship has been generated for this match, the sponsors including Reid & Taylor.
A good weekend crowd is expected, made up primarily of university students. Spreading cricket into the smaller parts of the country is important and a rollicking innings from the likes of Uthappa or a stellar spell from the likes of Pankaj would be apt advertisement for a town where top-level cricket seldom rolls through.
Teams: Karnataka (probable): 1 Robin Uthappa, 2 KB Pawan, 3 Sudhindra Shinde, 4 C Raghu, 5 Yere Goud (capt), Thilak Naidu (wk), 7 B Akhil, 8 Sunil Joshi, 9 R Vinay Kumar, 10 KP Apanna, 11 NC Aiyappa.
Rajasthan (probable): 1 Rohit Jhalani (wk), 2 Gagan Khoda, 3 Nikhil Doru, 4 Vineet Saxena, 5 Robin Bist, 6 Rajesh Bishnoi, 7 Afroz Khan, 8 Shamsher Singh, 9 Pankaj Singh, 10 Mohammad Aslam (capt), 11 Nishan Singh.
Jamie Alter is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo