The tough trek through the Bandipur Forest before the start of the season has started showing results for Karnataka. Then, the four months they spent at Mysore’s Infosys Campus, with their tough, ‘ruthless’ coach Venkatesh Prasad, have put them in good shape — physical and mental — to go through the grind in the tough domestic circuit.
On Monday, after an early new-ball assault by Delhi speedsters Ashish Nehra and Ishant Sharma, Karnataka wicketkeeper Thilak Naidu came up with an entertaining knock to put the Delhi attack to sword with a 122.
With 446 on board on this flat track, Karnataka speedsters R Vinay Kumar and B Akhil did not let Delhi off the hook, knocking out their top five batsmen with just 59 on board. Though Delhi managed to reach 103 at close without any further damage, the fears of losing points for the first time this season are now shaping into reality.
Before the start of the match, Prasad had emphasised that his team had no individual stars, but worked out well as a unit, and players chipped in for each other when needed. His words came true when Nehra and Ishant removed five Karnataka batsmen early in the morning.
However, Naidu refused to be bogged down by the pressure, instead choosing to take the Delhi bowlers head-on. Playing his natural, free-flowing game, he started off with a flurry of shots. Most of the runs came at his end, and first Vinay and then young KP Appanna were the lucky ones to have the best seat in the ground to watch the spectacle.
It was like watching a superstar of gali cricket as he rained runs with his sweeps, cuts, pulls, late-cuts and all other shots possible on a cricket ground, all as if at will. Naidu’s dominance was such that of the 83 runs that came in the last-wicket partnership, just one run came from Appanna’s blade and another from a bye. The other 81 runs were smashed by the rampaging Naidu.
When on 21, Naidu smashed Nehra for 18 runs in one over, with four consecutive boundaries. Although Nehra was by then tiring after his initial burst, but the 171 runs he conceded in his 36 overs should worry him a bit.
Chetanya Nanda, the leg-spinner playing his second match of the season, also failed to impress. The highest wicket-taker for Delhi last season, Nanda has failed to show the same spark. In the absence of a quality spinner in the home side, Nanda’s mediocrity has put extra pressure on the pace bowlers.
Delhi badly missed the services of their third seamer Kunnal Lall, who has been ruled out of the rest of the match with a side strain. Lall, in fact, is in danger of missing the rest of the season as he has been advised a rest of eight days and is certain to miss the next match.
With Aakash Chopra (0), Shikhar Dhawan (8), Mayank Tehlan (0), Mithun Manhas (4) and Rajat Bhatia (18) already fallen, it looks that only a miracle can save Delhi from missing out on points from this match -- and a miracle is perhaps too much to expect from the unbeaten batsmen, Virat Kohli and Puneet Bisht.