Karnataka confident of Vinay's availability
After finding out belatedly that they were playing at the Reliance Stadium - and not at the usual first-class venue, the Moti Bagh Stadium - in their semi-final against Baroda, Karnataka appeared to have been dealt a blow when captain Vinay Kumar did not bowl a single delivery during a three-hour plus morning practice session. Vinay was having a fever and a cold, but his team expected him to be available for the game starting tomorrow.
"The good thing about Vinay is that mentally, he is very strong. You can always back him to pick himself up and perform when it is required, and I am more than confident that he will play tomorrow," Sanath Kumar, the Karnataka coach, said.
While Vinay's fitness is a slight worry on the eve of the match, what has bothered Karnataka throughout the season is the tendency of their talented batsmen to fritter away starts. Amit Verma, currently fourth in the list of top run-getters for the tournament, is a case in point, having scored seven half-centuries and only one century. Sanath was optimistic that the time spent in nets would translate into big runs in the middle. "We have had issues with the batting throughout the season. But we have worked very hard recently on overcoming them, and hopefully should be able to do well."
The opening combination has been steady at best, has struggled to provide substantial starts, and averages under 30 in the crucial first innings. However, since Robin Uthappa moved to the top of the order, the returns have improved. "Robin is now opening regularly, and will continue to do that," Sanath said.
The form of middle-order batsman Ganesh Satish, though, has been a concern. He averages 27.36 in seven games, which includes an unbeaten 100, and also a pair in the quarter-final against Madhya Pradesh. Sanath hinted Satish might be replaced. "We are considering an additional spin option, either in Udit Patel or Sunil Raju." Both are offspinners who can bat, but Sanath didn't think this would weaken the batting line-up.
Sanath also did not think that the absence of Yusuf Pathan and Munaf Patel in the Baroda camp makes much of a difference. Both players are part of India's limited-overs squad, and will miss the game as they have to leave for South Africa. "See, we cannot be concerned about who is or is not playing for the opposition. And in the semi-finals, you have to play well against whatever opposition you come up with. If Yusuf and Munaf had played, would we have had any choice but to go out and give our best? It remains the same in their absence."
Karnataka bear a more settled look, both in batting and in bowling, and Sanath was confident that his attack of Vinay, Abhimanyu Mithun, S Aravind and Sunil Joshi could do the trick on a surface expected to favour the batsmen. "It looks to be a dry wicket. We have confidence in our bowling attack; it has worked for us throughout the season."
The side had a prolonged nets session, which continued well after Baroda had finished practice. All the batsmen got decent stints, and Manish Pandey even sent a couple of reporters - including this one - scurrying for cover as he lofted the spinners out of the nets, over the low-lying spectators' stand, and into the playing arena.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo