If we have to win the championship, we have to beat good teams: Mansur Ali Khan

Karnataka bowling coach Mansur Ali Khan tells G Krishnan that his team will approach the Ranji Trophy final against Tamil Nadu as another game and not put pressure on themselves.

How do you look at Sunday’s final?
We think this as one more game. Our first game this season was against Tamil Nadu (Karnataka won by 285 runs) and we finish the season with Tamil Nadu. In recent times, we have done very well against Tamil Nadu. This season we won outright against TN and last season also, we chased a huge total of 538 and got the lead against TN (Karnataka replied with 562/6 in Chennai in 2012-13). We are looking at it as one more game irrespective of the opponents. If we have to win the championship, we have to beat good teams, and that is what we have done. There is not much pressure on us. We will treat this as one more game.

Tamil Nadu are a team that has shown lot of grit and have come to the final against all odds. Does that worry Karnataka?
They have a very good batting line-up. Their top seven have been amongst runs. We have plans for each of them including Dinesh Karthik and Murali Vijay, their batting mainstays. We have attacking bowler. We have some of the most experienced bowlers, each with 35-plus wickets (R Vinay Kumar 41 wickets, Abhimanyu Mithun 36, Sreenath Aravind 39). Our bowlers may go for runs but in the bargain get some wickets also.

Is if fair to say the final will be between Tamil Nadu batting and Karnataka bowling?
I will say it is batting vs batting. Even we have good batsmen. When we played against Mumbai (last league match), we got a flat track.

I don’t know how the track we behave for the final. Mumbai lost to Jammu & Kashmir at the Wankhede, conceded the first innings lead to Madhya Pradesh. If there is a little bit of grass, we have a good chance if the bowlers bowl in the right areas. Obviously, we have our plans for flat track also. We need to keep it tight and wait for them to do mistakes.

Captain Vinay Kumar seems to be a tireless worker, taking wickets season after season. As bowling coach, what do you tell him?
Vinay is a very committed guy. He has set some standards for himself. He is very professional in terms of fitness, looking after his body, his work ethics. He is very very calculative. He knows what he is doing. Initially this season, we got seaming tracks. After that, on flat tracks, our fast bowlers have done well. That shows they have talent. On flat tracks, they have very good skills, know the knack to pick up wickets on those tracks. In last year’s semifinal against Punjab, Vinay broke his shoulder. He still came back with one shoulder and took five wickets to change the whole scenario. This semifinal (against Mumbai), he bowled dream spell. Vinay is a very committed boy, leads from the front, earns the respect of the whole team. As a coach, just having him in the team makes my job very easy. He takes the bowlers in his confidence.

What do you say to your bowlers who are immensely experienced?
You need to motivate these big players. I keep saying to them to bowl in the areas, make the batsmen play. Say for example, in the first spell of six overs, 36 balls, the bowlers make the batsmen play. Any batsman in the world won’t stay for long.

Wickets will come. Whether it is a green top or flat track, Vinay is an out-swing bowler, Aravind moves the ball both ways. Mithun is a good in-swing bowler and, of late, has learnt to get the ball moving out. I emphasis on them bowling in the right areas. When I took over in 2012-13, I keep telling them about those areas. Surprise bouncers and yorkers are very important. Bouncers put the batsmen under some fear. I keep telling them how good they are. Somewhere deep inside, egos will be there, which is good. Fast bowlers should be aggressive and change their body language. All bowlers are helpful to each other. They discuss when the chips are down as to how to get cracking. Shreyas Gopal is a kind who is very attacking. He might go for extra 20-30 runs but wickets will come. When he took 20-30 wickets last season, many wondered how he will perform the next season. He has taken 24 wickets this season.

Karnataka began the season with four straight wins. After then, it was only draws until the semifinal win. Is that a concern?
After four games, we knew we have nearly qualified for the quarterfinals. We experimented with the reserves, gave Vinay a break, Aravind a break and Mithun too. It is a long season. They have already bowled 300 overs. Every game, they bowl more than 20 overs in an innings. We were a little bit down with our middle-order batting. But Shishir Bhavane had a good debut (vs Mumbai), R Samarth has scored big centuries. KL Rahul came back from Tests in Australia and scored a triple century. We just tried different combinations.

Your batting looks strong enough…
The atmosphere in our team is like we are one family. There is no groupism. That is the main reason for Karnataka’s success. We have been moving like a family. And the results show. Everyone is eager and hungry to perform for the state and that will be rewarded with higher levels of cricket. The team should gel together, they are very helpful, happy with others’ success. Enjoy each others’ performances. That is the biggest thing about Karnataka. We are playing as a unit, whether batting, bowling or fielding. We don’t have any junior or senior. When Bhavane made his debut, we made him feel very comfortable. He hung around with Rahul. Robin Uthappa is very senior and helps juniors. They go out for dinner together. After playing for the country, these players gel well with the young boys in the team. This shows how good a team we are.

How much of the confidence will Karnataka take from the win against TN in the season’s first game?
We will have the advantage. The pressure will be on TN. As I said earlier, we will take it as another game. If we think we are playing TN, we will be putting pressure on ourselves. We want to have a relaxed atmosphere in the dressing room. If we think we are playing TN, we will be under pressure. We have told the boys to go out and enjoy, play to the best possible cricket against TN. When the boys start enjoying, they will be rewarded with colourful performance. If you put pressure on the boys, they will get stuck. Back-to-back final is the biggest thing. Winning is one thing. But entering the final for the second straight year is a big achievement.

Karnataka’s bench strength is equally strong, isn’t it?
People say we have hugely talented bench strength. That is the biggest compliment. If you see, three of our players are playing for other states – Ganesh Satish, Amit Verma, KB Pawan, and they are only 26-27. It is a healthy competition. Speedster HS Sharath played Duleep Trophy and S Aravind has made a strong statement that poor Sharath is not able to find a place in the Karnataka XI. The healthy competition will bring the best out of the boys.

Posted by on March 7, 2015. Filed under Sports World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.