Karnataka stand on the brink of an unprecedented treble. No team in the history of Indian domestic cricket has won the Ranji Trophy, the Irani Cup and the Vijay Hazare Trophy in the same season. R Vinay Kumar’s men have already achieved the double and face Railways in the Vijay Hazare Trophy final at Eden Gardens on Sunday.
Karnataka’s success in this tournament has been based on their batting. Robin Uthappa has been in scintillating form scoring consecutive centuries —132 not out (135 balls) against Gujarat in the quarters and 133 (135 balls) against Jharkhand in the semis. Karun Nair (120 against Gujarat), Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul, too, have chipped in. Karnataka have posted 300-plus totals in both their matches in the tournament proper.
Those matches, however, were played at Jadavpur University’s Salt Lake Campus Ground where the ball did very little in the air and off the surface. On the other hand, a spicy pitch is likely for the final at Eden Gardens. If it does pan out so, Uthappa and company will face a serious test.
Karnataka, however, are well stocked for all conditions. Vinay Kumar has been taking wickets — nine in the last two matches — and Abhimanyu Mithun, too, has carried forward his Ranji Trophy form to the shorter format. On paper, Karnataka have the edge.
Railways, though, have been the giant killers of the tournament. They saw off heavyweights such as Baroda, Punjab and Bengal to reach the final, and will look to capitalise on their momentum.
“Limited-overs cricket is all about who plays better cricket on the day and my team never gives up,” Railways coach Abhay Sharma said.
Punching above weight
The Railways team have punched well above their weight so far and a victory on Sunday will make a compelling case for increasing the facilities available to them.
“Winning the title would be very important for Railways. It might help us get better infrastructure next season. More importantly, for players like Anureet Singh, Mahesh Rawat and Karan Sharma, it could be a real boost in terms of their future. They’re ready for the top level, and with the national selectors watching, a strong performance in the final might open the doors to Team India for them,” Sharma said.
Railways have played all three matches under lights but Friday’s match will be played during the day. Even so, their coach sounded bullish.
“Conditions don’t matter. This is a skill-based game, and if you’re skillful enough, you really don’t care about the other factors,” Sharma rounded off.
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