The Krishnagiri pitch has a reputation for assisting seamers — in the Kerala-Gujarat quarterfinal, as many as 36 wickets were accounted for by the faster men, with the potency of Kerala’s three-pronged pace attack pipping the visitors. But the semifinal against Vidarbha wouldn’t be as straightforward, if the surface is on the greener side.
For the defending champions have a well-oiled bowling line-up, shored up by Umesh Yadav. He could rattle Kerala’s flimsy batting line-up, further dented by Sanju Samson’s injury, with sheer pace and movement, provided there is assistance from the surface. Moreover, he has been in fine form, plucking nine wickets against Uttarakhand on his return to domestic cricket after the Australia tour.
An equally familiar threat for Kerala batsmen will be Rajneesh Gurbani, who broke their back in last year’s quarterfinal on a flat Surat track. Their only consolation could be that the medium pacer hasn’t been effective this season, his four wickets in six innings coming at 74 runs apiece. But Lalit Yadav has emerged as an incisive bowler, who could manfully ally Umesh. The pick of their attack has been Aditya Sarwate, who has picked 44 wickets, but it has to be seen how much turn he can coax from the surface that has historically afforded negligible help for spinners.
Hence, like the Gujarat quarterfinal, it could turn out to be a straight shootout between the pacers of both sides, a contest made in fast bowler’ heaven. While Vidarbha might brag about the single most influential bowler among both teams, Umesh, Kerala can boast of an in-form bowling trio, all capable of clocking around 140 kmph, canny in extracting swing both ways.
But then, they will encounter a more experienced batting unit, comprising Wasim Jaffer and Faiz Fazal who have mastered such conditions several times in the past.