BENGALURU: Karnataka have taken the place of Mumbai in domestic cricket. One can say that the western giants are miles ahead in terms of Ranji Trophy titles won. But if one looks at consistency in recent times, there is no one who can match up with the southern powerhouse.
Of the last four men’s tournaments, Karnataka have won three — T20s in 2018-19, 2019-20 and one-dayers in 2019-20. The four-day crown has eluded them of late, but they were still the semifinalists in the last two seasons.
The presence of big players has played a role in this run of success. Manish Pandey, KL Rahul, Karun Nair, Mayank Agarwal have all played for India after performing exceptionally for Karnataka. Although bowlers of the current generation have not played for India yet unlike R Vinay Kumar or Abhimanyu Mithun, they have done their job nonetheless.
It is not only about the big names. The speciality of Karnataka and also the secret of their success has been bench strength. They unearth players who make immediate impact. Devdutt Padikkal, who made his debut in the shorter formats this season, amassed 1189 runs in two tournaments. Rohan Kadam is another who put his hand up when required and performed in big games.
“This team has a good mix of juniors and seniors. We treat the juniors very well and ensure that they are comfortable with everyone. We make them feel that they belong to this level. Only when they are comfortable, their best comes out. That is our success mantra if you ask me,” says off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham, an India A regular, who defended five in four balls in the last over of the T20 final against Tamil Nadu on Sunday.
This was evident in last season’s Ranji Trophy also, when Nair, Agarwal, Rahul, Pandey and Prasidh Krishna not available. Newcomers Dega Nischal and KV Siddharth rose to the occasion, aggregating 620 and 728 runs, respectively.
In the bowling department, Ronit More emerged their best bowler when some of the regulars were not around. And when Gowtham missed a few games, left-arm spinner J Suchith chipped in with 24 wickets in five matches. It shows that despite having a few star players, Karnataka are not solely reliant on them.
“We do not depend on a single individual. In bowling and batting, it is the same. From the eleven selected, there is always someone or the other who delivers. This has played an important role in helping the team emerge victorious. Also, there is healthy competition in the team and players have to perform when they get a chance,” said More.
After winning the first two tournaments of the season, Karnataka will focus on the big one. They have not won the Ranji Trophy after 2014-15. When the tournament starts this time, they will be a hungry lot.