Come Sunday, Karnataka will face off against Tamil Nadu in the final of a second domestic tournament within the space of a month; this time in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. The south Indian giants had just faced each other in the Vijay Hazare final in October, a clash from which Karnataka emerged victorious courtesy of the efforts from KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and birthday boy, Abhimanyu Mithun.
Karnataka are most certainly favourites to pull off a second-straight win in the finals over Tamil Nadu. They have been in fine form in 2019, having lost only two T20s in the calendar year, both coming in the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (vs Baroda and Mumbai) under the leadership of Manish Pandey.
Most importantly, their players are in excellent touch. KL Rahul has been a revelation in both the Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali tournaments, scoring heaps of runs at the top. Mayank Agarwal, whenever he is not scoring runs for fun in India colours, has done the same for Karnataka, often at a blistering pace and is in an almost unbreakable purple patch.
Abhimanyu Mithun is also having the time of his life- he picked up a hat-trick on his birthday in the Vijay Hazare final against Sunday’s opponents and also took one in Karnataka’s semi-final win over Haryana in the Syed Mushtaq Ali, making him the first bowler to take hat-tricks in all three of India’s premier domestic competitions.
Abhimanyu Mithun's hat-tricks for Karnataka:— Sampath Bandarupalli (@SampathStats) November 29, 2019
vs Uttar Pradesh, 2009 (FC)
vs Tamil Nadu, 2019 (List A)
vs Haryana, Today (T20)
First player to take a hat-trick in all Ranji Trophy, Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.#KARvHAR #SyedMushtaqAliTrophy
Apart from these players, the likes of Devdutt Padikkal- who has had a limited-overs domestic season to remember- and Rohan Kadam have risen to the occasion whenever called upon, making Karnataka a well-rounded side.
On the other hand, Tamil Nadu have not made as many headlines because there have not been many standout individual performers. They have been a domineering side too, save for a couple of losses, one of them being a humiliating nine-wicket loss to Karnataka earlier in the tournament.
Led by the maverick Dinesh Karthik, Tamil Nadu have displayed solid grit and determination to make it to both finals. The Vijay Hazare trophy gave them a new star in the aptly-named Shahrukh Khan while Sai Kishore is the newest entrant to the star club after a stellar tournament, where he has recorded figures of 3/10, 3/18, 3/9 and 4/6 in the previous seven games.
Tamil Nadu can also bank on the experience of the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Murali Vijay, Vijay Shankar and Washington Sundar, who have had international exposure and can come good on big occasions such as these.
It promises to be a cracker of a final in Surat on Sunday as Tamil Nadu look to get back at Karnataka while the latter chase bragging rights to cap off a magnificent 2019.
Feature Image courtesy: AFP / Randy Brooks