WHILE watching his team play out a drab draw against Madhya Pradesh at the Feroz Shah Kotla, Railways coach JP Yadav had one eye at the Palam Ground where Karnataka was pitted against Odisha.
JP was a tad surprised when he came to know that the former Ranji Trophy champions had their backs to the wall. He pondered for a moment, cleared his throat and then quipped: “Karnataka are a solid Ranji team. There have a cricket culture, they are thorough professionals and know how to wriggle out of even the most difficult situations. I won’t be surprised if they manage to eke out a draw against Odisha.” He was correct. Despite having conceded a first-innings lead, Karnataka’s lower order batted with gumption on the final day to thwart Odisha’s charge. In the end, this proved to be a significant fightback that helped J. Arun Kumar’s side avoid their first loss of this season.
A week since that game, Karnataka are now sitting pretty at the top of the points table in Group B, having accrued 30 points from 6 games. They will face laggards Saurashtra in their penultimate game of the season in Patiala. The inception of ‘neutral venue’ in Ranji Trophy has seen Saurashtra struggle. With no games at their den in Rajkot, the team has found it tough. Going into Round 7, they have lost four games and drew the remaining two. As things stand, Saurashtra’s chances of qualifying look dim. Meanwhile, it’s a three-way race to the knock-outs in Group A. Just five points separate Mumbai, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat at the top. Gujarat have an advantage, as they still have an additional game to play.
Missing the Big Two
Fatherhood seems to be keeping Harbhajan Singh away from domestic cricket. At the start of Round 6, there was talk that Harbhajan would turn up for Punjab. With captain Yuvraj Singh’s busy with his impending marriage, the former Test star was to lead the team. That was not to be as Gurkeerat Mann walked out for toss. With two games to go, it looks like the season seems to be as good as over for Punjab’s Big Two.
Gowtham’s Aussie story
The story of how Karnataka offie K.Gowtham got a chance to bowl to Aussies during the 2004 series is interesting. It all started with the Indian team asking a few local youngsters to bowl at their batsman during the pre-match nets session in Bangalore, ahead of the opening Test against the touring Australians in 2004. Gowtham was one of them. He was meant to bowl to Sachin Tendulkar along with his idol Harbhajan Singh. That was the time when his action was similar to the ‘Turbanator’. This got the Aussies interested. “Gilchrist sent someone to call me from the nets so that I could bowl to him. I got him out once. Stumped,” recalls Gowtham.