Bengaluru, Sep 9: Hubli Tigers are one of the 2 teams in the Karnataka Premier League (KPL) 2016, who can boast of the home-advantage factor; the other being Mysuru Warriors.
The team which played only four of their ten matches at home last season, enjoyed good crowd support. This was one of the factors which strengthened the team during the 2015 campaign. (Know your team - Bijapur Bulls)
The Tigers had a quiet debut season in 2014, where they finished fifth among seven teams. The next season, however, saw the much-improved team reach the final of the tournament where they lost to eventual champions, Bijapur Bulls. (Retaind players' list)
The turnaround in the team was attributed to the performance of many young guns, some of them exceeding the expectations of the team management.
Players such as Shivil Koushik, Kranthi Kumar and Mohammed Taha were rewarded for their performance as they were retained by the franchise, alongside the experienced left-arm medium pace bowler Sreenath Aravind.
This time around, the new-look team has plenty of all-rounders in the side, and according to coach Mansur Ali Khan, it would be a great challenge to pick the playing XI.
"The team has many good all-rounders. That's our biggest strength. There is a problem of plenty because of that. It will be a challenge for us to pick the best XI among them for the matches," he stated.
Such is the strength of the team, that there are close to 10 all-rounders in the squad.
All-rounder Abhishek Reddy believed the best part of the current squad was the good relationship between the senior and junior players.
"We are looking forward to win the trophy this year. We are gelling well as a team. All seniors are making juniors much more comfortable, which is a good sign," the 22-year old said.
Some of the players who could really create a big impact are Stalin Hoover, Aditya Somanna, Manjesh Reddy and spinner Shivil Koushik. The left-arm chinaman bowler, Koushik, was bought up Gujarat Lions for the IPL following his exploits for the Tigers in 2015.
He has the unique ability to bamboozle batsmen with his back-of-the-hand deliveries. He had a fairly decent outing in the IPL, having picked up 6 wickets in 7 matches, with an economy of 8.34 and an average of 32. His bowling action almost resembles that of former South African spinner Paul Adams.
Aravind the key
Another star quality in the squad is Aravind. The Indian cricketer has plenty of experience at this level, and will ably take on the anchor role in the team.
Aravind has also been part of Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL since 2011, but has been in and out of the side, because of injuries. He has the distinctive ability to single-handedly run through the opposition ranks on his day.
All in all, the Hubli Tigers seem a well-balanced side on paper this season, and coach Mansur is confident that the team will better their last season performance.
He also talked about the two types of players in the squad- two dimensional players and three dimensional players, in the way they approach the game differently. The Karnataka coach also spoke on the other teams of the tournament which his side would be wary of.
"This time, Bellary Tuskers have a very good balanced side on paper. And Mysuru too, have a strong batting unit. But we are well prepared for the challenges," he commented.
Going by the coach's brave words, the all-round Hubli Tigers will certainly be the team to beat, this season.
Hubli Tigers squad
Kunal Kapoor (captain)
Mohammed Niyas Nisar
Owners - Sushil Jindal and Abhishek Jindal
Mansur Ali Khan - Coach
Vidyut Shivaramakrishnan - Coach
Arun Harikrishna - Physio
C Srinivas - Video Analyst
Rakshit - Trainer
Ramesh Rao - CEO