Mumbai: Looking to retain the title, defending champions Karnataka will face an uphill task against the formidable Tamil Nadu in the final of the Ranji Trophy cricket tournament at the Wankhede Stadium, here tomorrow.
It is expected to be an exciting contest between the two Southern teams with both sides having a few India players in their ranks.
“We have shared some good matches. They have been a consistent team over the past couple of years but we have got a good batch of youngsters and it calls for an interesting game,” Tamil Nadu captain Abhinav Mukund said on the eve of the match.
While Karnataka won the title last year, their seventh since their maiden one in 1973-74, Tamil Nadu had last won the trophy for only the second time in the tournament's history, way back in 1987-88.
Holders Karnataka have been unbeaten for last two years, and would start as favourites having defeated the same opponents by 285 runs in the season opener.
Incidentally, it was Tamil Nadu's only defeat this season. Karnataka batsmen have been among runs with Robin Uthappa being the top scorer in the Ranji season so far with 912 runs under his belt. Shreyas Gopal, Ravikumar Samarth and KL Rahul have also scored over 600 runs each.
The only worry for Karnataka is wicketkeeper C M Gautam's availability, who is suffering from a quadriceps muscle pull.
“It is 50-50. Maybe tomorrow morning, we will take a call. If he is not a 100 per cent fit, definitely, we will not make him play,” Karnataka skipper R Vinay Kumar said.
Karnataka have a much superior all-round bowling attack, especially with the new ball. Vinay, Abhimanyu Mithun and left arm bowler Srinath Aravind, having claimed over 116 wickets among them, have proved a handful for other teams.
“The three of us have played for Karnataka for many years and we know what we have to do as a team. We are doing it as a bowling team and we always complement each other...Hopefully this game also we will do well,” the Karnataka skipper said.
Tamil Nadu have the likes of India Test opener Murali Vijay, Abhinav Mukund, Dinesh Karthik, Vijay Shankar and twins Aparajith and Indrajith in their top six and it will be an interesting contest between the bat and the ball.