Baroda v Karnataka, Ranji Trophy Super League semi-final January 2, 2011

Karnataka's preparations jolted by setbacks

The build-up to the crunch semi-final against Baroda has been anything but ideal for Karnataka. Their troubles began in Bangalore yesterday as fog made them miss their connecting flight to Vadodara from Mumbai, they didn't know at what ground they were playing, and their problems were capped by captain Vinay Kumar missing today's practice with poor health.

Having to catch an early morning flight on New Year's day is generally among the tougher things in life, and then having that flight delayed by three hours makes things worse. The agony gets compounded when the delay means you miss your connecting plane, and have to spend the entire day idling in the lounge of the busiest airport in the country. By the time the Karnataka team reached Vadodara late in the evening, after an almost nine-hour delay, they were understandably bleary-eyed and drained of energy. As if the fact that they had lost an entire day of practice was not enough, more irritation was coming their way. They soon found that there was no parking space outside their hotel for the team bus, which meant the players could not get off the vehicle. That was the last straw on a rough day, and they sped away to another hotel in disgust.

All this while, Karnataka were under the impression that they were playing at the Moti Bagh Stadium, Baroda's regular first-class venue, where the hosts have played all their four home games this season, including the recent quarter-final against Railways. But they found, through unofficial channels, that the semi-final had been shifted to the Reliance Stadium (the erstwhile IPCL Ground) instead. "It is a total surprise. We had no clue that we were to play at the IPCL ground," a Karnataka source told ESPNcricinfo. "And what's more, no one from our state association cared to inform us. Such things can impact team composition."

"Well, that was the idea, to keep Karnataka guessing about the venue," a source from the Baroda camp told ESPNcricinfo. "Even they had played at Mysore, and not Bangalore, when we went to Karnataka. We have chosen according to what we believe will suit our strengths. We respect their pace attack, but do not want to give them something that will help them."

After all this, Karnataka has to deal with the biggest jolt of the day, when Vinay pulled out of bowling in the morning's practice session. He had fever and cold, and was not looking exactly cheerful. The team management is confident that he will play, but they could have definitely done without a setback or two.

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo