Fight for bragging rights
Karnataka captain Vinay Kumar (left) and Tamil Nadu skipper Abhinav Mukund exchange pleasantries at the Wankhade stadium on Saturday. Kevin D’Souza
Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are used to fighting over prized possessions. For close to a century or more, the two states have haggled endlessly over their respective rights to the water from the river that divides them. The Kaveri issue though is recent as compared to that involving the origins of the humble Dosa.
While Tamilians have always claimed it to be their contribution to India’s breakfast menu, the Kannadigas swear by the first Indian pancake to have emerged from Udipi. And who does Rajinikanth belong to? After all he was selling bus-tickets in Bengaluru before he began flipping cigarettes and anything that came his way en route to superstardom in Chennai.
When Tamil Nadu and Karnataka step into the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday, they will have the title of becoming the domestic kings of Indian cricket embossed in their sights. The eventual outcome in five days’ time might not have the greatest of bearings on the ceaseless contests for entitlement between the two competitive states. But it will at least hand out decisive bragging rights when it comes to the cricket field.
To be honest though, the contest has been pretty lopsided in Karnataka’s favour when it comes to bat and ball. Even if nobody from the opposition camp will accept it. In fact, it’s unlikely you will meet anyone involved or concerned with Tamil Nadu cricket and not come out of it convinced that Chennai is the breeding ground for international cricketers and the epicentre for high-quality cricket.
Even if these claims might not be entirely baseless, a number of Karnataka cricketers have plied their trade in the TNCA Division 1 League in their formative years — the bare facts do not support them. They instead point towards Karnataka having been the more dominant team, even if they might not prefer beating their drum about it like their rivals. The last time TN won the Ranji crown was in the 1987-88 season.
They have been to five finals in the 26 seasons since and come second-best. In the same period, Karnataka have won the title on four occasions, including last year. One of those victories came against TN in the 1995-96 final-the last time the two met in the summit clash.
Both states have produced around the same number of cricketers for the country since Santhanaraman Vasudevan led his team to an innings victory over Railways at Chepauk.
The 14 Karnataka men who made it to the highest level since have played 429 Tests and 1,171 ODIs in that time. In contrast, the 11 from TN have managed 117 Tests and 437 ODIs between them. And it is only recently that they have even started having regular representatives in the national team.
Incidentally, there will be four each from that lot on both sides at the Wankhede Stadium. And true to form and recent history, it will be Vinay Kumar’s Karnataka who will go in as favourites to retain their crown against Abhinav Mukund’s young outfit.
The disparity between the sides on various counts is indicative of that. While the defending champs ooze with stability, not having lost a match since November 2012, their opponents have been riddled with captaincy changes and middle-order overhauls.
Karnataka’s bowling prowess is exemplified by the rather cordial manner in which their seamers, led by skipper Vinay (41) — Abhimanyu Mithun (36) and Sreenath Aravind (39), have shared the opposition scalps this season. In contrast, the TN bowling has depended squarely on Malolan Rangarajan’s off-spin, which might not gain much assistance from the Wankhede wicket. If anything, it’s only in terms of the inconsistency of their top-order that the two teams can draw parity. That and the presence in each side of one opener who’s established himself in India’s Test top-order and one who’s been knocking on the door for at least half-a-dozen years.
Each aware that an eye-catching knock in the biggest showpiece event of the domestic calendar, even if it does clash with the biggest showpiece of the cricketing world, will be a big step towards either solidifying their pole position or reclaiming lost ground.
Just like a victory at Wankhede will for their respective teams. Even if it is nothing more than the latest conquest between two neighbouring South Indian states in their long-standing war for bragging rights over matters that spread from sports arenas to dining rooms.
Live on Star Sports 2 at 9.30 am
Source:: Indian Express