Bengaluru, Sep 15: Mangalore United and Bijapur Bulls, have been the most consistent teams of the Karnataka Premier League (KPL) Twenty20 tournament. Mangalore with their European style club name, Man U, have earned many fans over the years.
The team won their first and only title back in 2010, thanks to a fine bowling effort. Having been put to bat first in the final, the team could only manage a total of 112 runs. In reply, Mangalore bowlers stunned the then defending champions (Provident Bangalore), to win by a margin of 44 runs to claim their maiden trophy. (Know your team - Mysuru)
Six years and two seasons down the lane, Karun Nair remains the sole player who has continued to be part of the side. Nair, who snarled four wickets in that eventful final, has gathered vast experience since and this will prove handy when leading the side.
Nair, a consistent performer in the IPL and domestic circuit, was rewarded with an India call-up for a One Day International debut against Zimbabwe. (Know your team - Bellary)
Nair is also a regular in the India 'A' squad, mentored by Rahul Dravid. The former Indian captain was the mentor when Nair flourished in the 2014 IPL for Rajasthan Royals, scoring over 300 runs, which included three fifties. Apart from Rajasthan, Nair has also featured for Bangalore and Delhi in IPL. (Know your team - Hubli)
Another mainstay in the Mangalore squad is experienced Karnataka player CM Gautam. The wicketkeeper-batsman is the senior- most member of the side. The ever-reliable Gautam, like Karun, has IPL experience to fall back on. His exploits in the domestic circuit, having represented Karnataka close to a decade now, have been very good.
Gautam remarked that the current Mangalore United squad had a good mixture of youth and experience. "I think we have a good all-round side this time. There's a good mix of seniors and juniors in the team. We have been training hard and are looking forward to the tournament," he stated. The batsman also mentioned that there were a few members in the squad, who could 'take everyone by surprise'. He, however, refused to name the players.
The players to look forward in the team include Ronit More, Shishir Bhavane, Nidhish Mohanram, BN Prasad, Kishore Kamath and Bhavesh Gulecha. All these cricketers have been impressive in domestic and zonal tournaments, and are raring to perform in the KPL.
Another positive thing about the side is the number of spin-bowling options. The squad has as many as three left arm orthodox spinners- Mitrakanth Yadav, Ankit Kumar and Pranav Bhatia, apart from plenty of other spinning options.
Kamath, who was picked by Mumbai Indians for a huge sum of Rs 1.4 crore, will be keenly watched. The leg spinner-all rounder made his mark for Hubli Tigers last season and that got him into the IPL mix. How well he copes with the changed equation of graduating from an unknown entity to a big fish will define his season.
In actual essence, the real driving force behind the team is the 'young coach', 32-year-old Nidhuvan Gotadke. The coach opined that the Mangalore squad for the 2016 season was well-balanced, with a lot of talented players.
"We have youngsters eager to prove a point on the big stage. This time, all teams in the competition are good, and hopefully we will perform well," he commented.
Mangalore United squad
CM Gautam (captain and wicketkeeper)
Owners - BM Farookh and Moinuddin Bawa
Nidhuvan - Coach
Jayaraj Muthu - Assistant Coach
Praveen Kumar - Manager
Dr. Vinod Jain - Physio
Santhosh - Video Analyst
Mohit - Trainer