Railways have suffered a major blow ahead of their crucial Ranji Trophy match against Saurashtra with veteran left-arm orthodox spinner Murali Kartik pulling out of the squad citing injury. Rajkots Nilesh Chauhan,also a left-armer,has been called up to the squad in his place. Chauhan,a last minute replacement,walked in to the Karnail Singh Stadium tugging not just his kit but the rest of his luggage as well as he joined the team for training on Monday.
Kartiks unavailability has come at a time when the home team were still in the running for a place in the knockout rounds and had prepared a spin-friendly pitch for the match. For the record,Railways need to win against Saurashtra and hope the other teams with a chance of advancing to the knock out stages – Punjab and Uttar Pradesh-falter in their respective final matches. Team skipper,Sanjay Bangar confirmed Kartiks absence. Hes not playing in this match, Bangar told Sportline.
In Kartiks absence,off-spinner Arlen Konwar,who has only played two games this season,will play a key role. The former Assam tweakers last game came against Rajasthan where he did little to impress in the first innings,conceding 112 runs with just a solitary wicket to show for his efforts. Rajasthan made 521 but Konwars spell did not cost his side as the batsmen managed to overhaul what had appeared to be insurmountable total. Also in the running would be Nilesh Chauhan,who only got a solitary game this season. The 28-year-old went wicketless in the match against Karnataka which was only his fourth first class game.
Interestingly,opener Shreyas Khanolkar,who also doubles up as an off-spinner,too would be a handful on this pitch. In the opening match against Mumbai,Khanolkar outshone the sides regular spinners with figures of 5/78 including against Rohit Sharma.