The T20 tournament, the final domestic event of the 2018-19 season, will be perfect build-up to IPL-12 which gets underway on March 23, less than 10 days after the final. For the likes of Maharashtra skipper Rahul Tripathi (Rajasthan Royals), Karnataka captain Manish Pandey (Kolkata Knight Riders) and teammates Karun Nair (Kings XI Punjab), Mayank Agarwal (Kings XI Punjab) and Shreyas Gopal (Rajasthan Royals), it is a perfect opportunity to impress their respective franchises with a fine show in the final.
In what has been a season of disappointment for traditional domestic powerhouses like Mumbai and Mushtaq Ali T20 defending champions Delhi, Maharashtra have emerged as the surprise package much like Vidarbha’s Ranji-title winning run earlier this year.
Although both teams are unbeaten in the Super League, Karnataka’s winning run stretches back to the last season as Pandey’s boys have now won 13 domestic T20 matches on the trot, just one short of the record set by the Knight Riders back in 2014.
Only blip on Maharashtra’s radar was a surprise six-wicket defeat at the hands of Services in the Group stage encounter last month. Since then, Tripathi has led his side to comprehensive wins over Bengal, Gujarat and Jharkhand.
Skipper and Maharashtra opener Tripathi has led the way for the side with 259 runs in nine games and has received great support from fellow opener Ruturaj Gaikwad (281 runs in 11 games) and Naushad Shaikh (266 runs in 11 games). Apart from the trio, Maharashtra also boast of Nikhil Naik, who scored a career-best 95 not out in the last match while Ankit Bawne, who has led India ‘A’ this season, is always a dangerous proposition.
Karnataka have an equally impressive batting line-up led by their skipper Pandey, who has been in sublime form with 331 runs in 11 games but the surprise package has been young opener Rohan Kadam, the second-highest run-scorer in Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 this season with 476 runs in 11 games at an average of 52.89 and strike-rate of 127.27 with four fifties.
Former skipper Nair has found his touch ahead of the IPL, scoring 237 runs in the tournament so far while Agarwal, who finally made his Test debut this season, will be waiting to fire on the big stage in the title clash.
In the bowling department, Karnataka have the edge with the slow bowlers with Gopal (13 wickets), J Suchith (9 wickets) and KC Cariappa (9 wickets) giving Pandey plenty of options to choose from.
Tripathi, on his part, can call upon Maharashtra left-arm spinner Satyajeet Bachhav, who has been the leading wicket-taker in the tournament so far with 20 scalps in 11 games at an average of 11.25 and economy-rate of 5.62. Apart from Bachhav, veteran left-arm seamer Samad Fallah (12 wickets) has also provided useful breakthroughs with the new ball.
Karnataka will look to make up for the disappointment of missing out in the Ranji Trophy with a title in the shortest format and cap off their brilliant run by equaling KKR’s successive win-record on Thursday. The title clash will certainly be an explosive one in Indore.
karnatakamaharashtraManish PandeyRahul TripathiSyed Mushtaq AliSyed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2018-19Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2019
First Published: March 13, 2019, 12:06 PM IST