All eys will be on Dravid as Katk face Mumbai 'morrow

Published: Friday, November 2, 2007, 3:35 [IST]
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Mumbai: Defending champions Mumbai will have a lot on their hands as they take on Karnataka which has in its ranks one of India's premier batsman in Rahul Dravid in the opening Super League Group 'A' Ranji Trophy match at the Wankhede stadium beginning on Saturday.

Dravid, dropped unceremoniously from the first two one-dayers against Pakistan due to his lack of form, will have a great chance to rediscover his touch and prove his detractors wrong by piling up a huge score.

Karnataka will be led by another stalwart in Anil Kumble which has given their team a look of class against the powerhouse of Indian cricket, Mumbai, in the four-day league tie.

The first class game at the Wankhede Stadium is the ideal stage for Dravid, who had a lean time with the bat in the seven-match ODI series against Australia which concluded on Oct 17, to get among the runs ahead of the tough battles awaiting the Indian team in the season, including the three-Test rubber against Pakistan which follows after the conclusion of the ODI series.

The last time Dravid had turned out for Karnataka in Ranji Trophy was at Rajkot for last season's league clash against Saurashtra.

Also keen to get into the groove for the Test series along with Dravid would be Kumble, who would be playing his first Ranji tie for Karnataka in two seasons and his opening competitive long-duration tie after returning home from England at the end of the Test series in August.

The visitors would be banking a lot on this duo, as well as on another seasoned and ex-India campaigner Sunil Joshi, with back-up from the younger lot to get off to a good start against Mumbai.

Newly appointed Karnataka coach and ex-ODI player Vijay Bharadwaj today said the presence of the star duo would certainly be a big plus for his team against an opposition of the calibre of Mumbai. ''The youngsters in the team can learn a lot by sharing the dressing room with Rahul and Anil whose perseverance is to be appreciated. They are still going strong after such a long career,'' Bharadwaj said.

Kumble said ahead of the tie that Karnataka would like to make a winning start to their Ranji campaign.

Recalling Karnataka's surge into the semis last season with a young team, Kumble said it was important for the team to get a good start to their campaign.

''I am looking forward to this game. It will be nice to get things going in the first game itself.'' ''The important factor is to ensure Karnataka gets off to a good start. We did well last season getting to the semi finals with the kind of team we had,'' he said.

The visitors have a very good spin attack in Kumble, left arm Joshi and off spinner C Raghy and the key to Mumbai's fortunes might lie in how they tackle the Karnataka trio on a wicket that Bharadwaj expected to offer turn and break as the match progressed.

The hosts too want to start with a gallop unlike last year when they were without a point to their credit after three away games.

''This time, we want to start well and we have an advantage playing at home. It's also a great thing that our players would be up against Rahul and Anil as a good show against them would give them a lot of confidence going forward,'' Mumbai coach Praveen Amre said.

Mumbai would also be hoping to wipe out the jinx of recent years when the team winning the Ranji Trophy has failed miserably the next year. In 2004-05, Railways won the Ranji Trophy only to see them being relegated to the plate division the next year, while Uttar Pradesh who won the Trophy in 2005-06, managed to barely stay in the Elite group last season.

Mumbai will be depending a lot on the seniors Wasim Jaffer and Amol Muzumdar in batting and Ajit Agarkar and Ramesh Powar in bowling to get a good start for this year's campaign.

The Teams:

Karnataka: Anil Kumble (c), Rahul Dravid, Barrington Rowland, N C Aiyappa, B Akhil, K P Appanna, S Dhananjaya, Yere Goud, Sunil Joshi, Thilak Naidu (w-k), Devraj Patil, K B Pawan, C Raghu, Sudhindra Shinde and Vinay Kumar. Coach: Vijay Bharadwaj.

Mumbai: Amol Muzumdar (c), Wasim Jaffer, Sahil Kukreja, Hiken Shah, Abhishek Nayar, Anup Revankar, Iqbal Abdulla, Ajit Agarkar, Prashant Naik, Ramesh Powar, Ajinkya Rahane, Avishkar Salvi, Vinayak Mane (w-k) and Rajesh Verma. Coach: Praveen Amre.


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