Mohali: With Yuvraj Singh lending stability to the middle order, Punjab would look to capitalise on home advantage when they take on Karnataka in their Ranji Trophy tie at the PCA stadium here on Wednesday.
The previous two seasons have not been that good for the hosts, and after having lost in the quarterfinals to Karnataka last season, Punjab would be desperately looking to seal a win on their home ground.
While the Vinay Kumar-led Karnataka will be playing their first match of the season, Punjab had conceded the first-innings lead in their opener against Uttar Pradesh.
Punjab’s middle-order looks solid, with skipper Pankaj Dharmani, Yuvraj Singh and the consistent Uday Kaul, capable of frustrating the opposition attack.
Harmeet Singh Bansal, Navneet Singh and Bharat Lumba are the key pacers, who would be looking to exploit the bouncy PCA track, while Rahul Sharma and Sarabjit Ladda will take care of the spin department. Punjab also has high expectations from all-rounder Bipul Sharma.
Due to an injury to spearhead Luv Ablish, the selectors have gone for Manpreet Singh Gony for Wednesday’s match.
The team has undergone many training and conditioning camps recently, and PCA secretary, M P Pandove, had also warned the players to take their fitness seriously.
‘We will be looking to exploit the home conditions to our advantage. We have Yuvraj Singh in the side and that should help, but overall, it is going to be a tough match,’ Dharmani said.
With the exception of all-rounder Sunil Joshi, the Karnataka team comprises of youngsters and are short on experience compared to Punjab.
The likes of Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey lend strength to Karnataka’s batting, but all eyes will be on K L Rahul, who will be making his Ranji debut.
Abhimanyu Mithun will not be easy to face and the pacer will be high on confidence after finishing as the leading wicket-taker last season, in which Karnataka finished runners-up.