BENGALURU: Karnataka were the standout team in this Vijay Hazare Trophy. After topping a tough combined Group A and B with just one loss, they were invincible in the knockout stages, going on to claim their fourth domestic one-day title on Friday. Devdutt Padikkal (609 runs), KL Rahul (598), Manish Pandey (525), Abhimanyu Mithun (20 wickets) and Prasidh Krishna (17) were their standout performers.
Besides individual brilliance, the team management also played its part with some important decisions during the tournament. One among them was the bold move to play a part-time keeper in the knockout stages despite having a fit keeper in the form of BR Sharath.
Giving Rahul the gloves allowed them to play an extra bowler in the quarterfinal, and an extra batsman in the semifinals and final.
"I always wanted him to keep so that we could play six batsmen and adjust in one all-rounder," said Pandey. "We were closing in on the knockout phase, so I thought that him keeping would help me get another all-rounder in, or we can play six batsmen and five pure bowlers."
The management also handed Prateek Jain a debut in the final, against Tamil Nadu, for his left-arm pace instead of a regular in Ronit More; a bold call in a pressure game.
It has to be noted that performances were taken into account while picking the XI. Premier leg spinner Shreyas Gopal, who was not at his impressive best in the tournament, did not find a place in the semifinals and final after unimpressive figures against Puducherry (0/55), Saurashtra (1/52) and Mumbai (1/80). Praveen Dubey, who took three wickets each against Goa and Puducherry, was given the nod.
"The management has been giving chances to different players, who are doing well in all kinds of leagues. If you get a chance to feature for the state (in the XI) and deliver, then it gives players the confidence and drive to do well," Mithun said.
With Vinay Kumar leaving Karnataka, Mithun was the bowling spearhead, entailing peak fitness as a prerequisite. In eight round-robin games, they rested him for two: against Chhattisgarh and Saurashtra. Mithun took a minimum of one wicket in each of the other six. He was at his menacing best in the final, scalping five that included a hat-trick.
"The team management always wanted to rotate the bowlers as they wanted me and others to be fresh. It was done as there were so many matches to be played," said Mithun.