Bangalore, Jan 7: Karnataka, brimming with confidence after coming through the league phase unbeaten and winning five of their eight games, will start odds-on favourites to win the five-day Ranji Trophy quarter-final game against Uttar Pradesh commencing here Wednesday.
Though the hosts will be without their key all-rounder Stuart Binny who has been named in the New Zealand-bound Indian team, Karnataka still have enough firepower, both in batting and bowling, and are riding high after their historic win against Mumbai at the same venue. They should roll Uttar Pradesh over.
While Karnataka qualified for the knock-out by topping Group A, Uttar Pradesh finished second behind the Railways in Group B with two wins in eight matches and a defeat to Bengal who were placed third.
On the face of it, Karnataka look stronger, given their all-round strength with their key batsmen and bowlers in top form, in sharp contrast to Uttar Pradesh, who have had an up and down season and now will be without Suresh Raina and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, both on India duty.
The mainstays of Karnataka’s success in the league have been seamers H.S. Sharath and Abhimanyu Mithun, who have taken 60 wickets between them, besides top-order batsmen Lokesh Rahul (777 runs), Manish Pandey (594) and Mayank Agarwal (380).
The hosts have received a further boost with the return of opener Robin Uthappa, who missed a few games owing to hamstring injury. That apart, Karnataka have been ably led by India seamer Vinay Kumar who, besides scoring a century, has also taken 12 wickets in five matches after missing early part of the season due to national commitments.
Thus, Karnataka have the arsenal not only to subdue Uttar Pradesh but the potential to go all the way to claim their seventh Ranji Trophy title, and their first in 14 seasons.
Conversely, Uttar Pradesh have depended largely on their new ball bowlers Imtiaz Ahmed (25 wickets) and skipper Rudra Pratap Singh (21), and leg-spinner Amit Mishra (20) while the batsmen have not shown appreciable consistency.
Under the circumstances, Uttar Pradesh face an uphill task to get past a buoyant Karnataka whose collective youthfulness and inexperience are more than off-set by abundance of their talent.