Bengaluru: All eyes will be on Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey and Stuart Binny, the trio who are looking to make the final cut for the 2015 World Cup, as defending champions Karnakata begin their Ranji Trophy campaign against arch-rivals Tamil Nadu at Chinnaswamy Stadium, here on Sunday.
Fresh from their Vijay Hazare triumph, Karnataka are the team to beat in the current season and the selection of their players – Uthappa, Pandey and Binny – in the 30-member World Cup probables list has made matters interesting for the hosts.
Karnataka skipper Vinay Kumar would be banking on the in-form Uthappa to give them a solid start, especially in the absence of K L Rahul, who is in Australia with the India Test squad.
Top-order batsman Pandey has also been in good nick after scoring 534 runs at an average of 89 in the nine List A games.
Binny’s all-round abilities should also come in handy as the medium-pacer is part of the most potent bowling attack along with Vinay Kumar and his allies Abhimanyu Mithun and H S Sharath.
After a fantastic last season when Karnataka created history by winning Ranji, Vijay Hazare and Irani Cup titles, the South Zone side is once again looking to repeat the success.
On the other hand, Tamil Nadu face an uphill task with veteran Subramaniam Badrinath shifting base to Vidarbha. Led by middle-order batsman Ramaswamy Prasanna, the visitors will be depending on the experience of Indian discards Dinesh Karthik and Laxmipathy Balaji to lift their morale.
In the absence of Badrinath, the batting onus clearly lies on Baba Aparajith, who has started this season with a ton and a half century in Deodhar Trophy. He would like to rectify last season’s performance, for he had started in great style by notching up a double hundred and two fifties in first four games but could not carry the form forward.
His batting prowess apart, Aparajith adds value to his team with his off-spin abilities.
Abhinav Mukund will also be another key batsman in the teams batting arsenal.
Karnataka: Vinay Kumar (capt), Mayank Agarwal, Sreenath Aravind, Shishir Bhavane, Stuart Binny, CM Gautam (wk), Shreyas Gopal, Kunal Kapoor, Abrar Kazi, Abhimanyu Mithun, Karun Nair, Manish Pandey, Udit Patel, Ravikumar Samarth, HS Sharath, Robin Uthappa.
Tamil Nadu: Ramaswamy Prasanna (capt), Jagannathan Kaushik, Umashankar Sushil, Baba Aparajith, Aushik Srinivas, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Kaushik Gandhi, Baba Indrajith, Dinesh Karthik (wk), M Mohammed, Abhinav Mukund, T Natarajan, Malolan Rangarajan, Shahrukh Khan, Vijay Shankar.