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Slow steps forward

Karnataka made firm strides in the recently concluded Ranji Trophy tournament until that fatal stumble in the quarter-final stage. Coach Vijay Bharadwaj and Captain Robin Uthappa, however, believe that the team has some fine talent

Photo: Bhagya prakash k.

The half-full glass Robin Uthappa (left) and Sunil Joshi celebrate the fall of a wicket

It turned out to be a case of so near yet so far for Karnataka cricket as the State team suffered a surprise defeat against Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy quarter-final at Mumbai recently. In a season that had transition as its defining theme, the te am’s core think-tank of coach Vijay Bharadwaj and captain Robin Uthappa believe that their young team has done adequately well.

“To be fair, ours is a young team,” Bharadwaj said. “Seven youngsters got a feel of the big stage this season and the fact that the team made it to the quarter-finals from a tough group is a testimony to its potential. If you ask me whether I am satisfied, I may not have the right answer especially if you show me the score-sheets.”

The coach believes that the batsmen failed to impose themselves during critical moments. “I wish we had batted well, especially against Railways in the opening game and against Uttar Pradesh. When I say we had to bat well I am saying it in terms of striking a dominant note. Even in the quarter-final we did well right through except for that one session in the final day and we lost the match.”

The need to blend experience with youth was also an underlying theory as the team made gradual progress through the season. “Experience counts. See the way Sunil Joshi, Rahul Dravid, Robin, Vinay Kumar and B. Akhil contributed to the team. At the same time I back the youngsters to perform in the coming seasons. They have the potential and I can understand their nerves during the first season, the same thing happened to me when I started playing.”

Skipper Uthappa also adopted the glass-is-half-full philosophy. “Considering that our team had a clutch of youngsters, we didn’t do that badly this season. A quarter-final berth is creditable but it would have been fantastic if we had made it to the semi-finals. I blame myself for the failure. On that last day when Saurashtra were busy chasing and getting those quick runs I should have immediately switched to a defensive field but I kept thinking it was just a matter of getting one more wicket and Cheteshwar Pujara ran away with the match.

“This is my first season as captain and I am learning on the job and I need to thank KSCA secretary Brijesh Patel, Bharadwaj, seniors like Joshi and the youngsters for backing me. Guys like Manish Pandey, Pawan, Ganesh Satish, Sunil Raju and others have the talent.

“If there is one wish it is that we could have batted better. We need players who will play the guiding role well. As an opener I need to guide numbers two and three while Raghu or an Akhil or Thilak Naidu can helm the middle-order. The bowlers led by Joshi did a fantastic job and personally as a batsman I wish I could have rattled of some really big scores when I was so settled at the crease,” Uthappa says.

In the coming years, Karnataka besides finding steady feet in the Ranji Trophy also needs to firm up its presence in the National squad. With Anil Kumble bowing out, Rahul Dravid in his twilight and Uthappa fighting for a comeback, the State needs to unearth more players who can make a difference in the International arena.

K.C. VIJAYA KUMAR

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