KOLKATA: Former Ranji champions, Bengal and Tamil Nadu, are all set to come face to face in a crucial Group A clash at the historic Eden Gardens. Both teams have struggled in the new season and will be looking to set the records straight when they face off at the grand old amphitheatre.
Hosts Bengal are currently languishing at the bottom of Group A. They have fared poorly in their last two home matches-losing against Karnataka and drawing their last game against Mumbai. Incidentally, both times they have been forced to follow on.
However, captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla brushed aside the claims that the match will be a do-or-die battle for Bengal. “It will be our fourth match. In spite of the results, the boys have given it their all in the previous encounters.From here onwards, all matches will be equally important if we are to qualify for the knockout stage and we hope to garner maximum points from this fixture,” said the veteran.
“We have analysed our mistakes from the previous games and everyone will be keen to improve,” he added. The home side are mulling a couple of changes with senior seamer Sourav Sarkar set to replace either Veer Pratap Singh or rookie Pritam Chakraborty. Senior off-spinner Saurashish Lahiri, who didn’t feature in the last match as Bengal had opted for an extra batsman, is all set to return in place of Suvojit Banerjee to add variety to the attack.
On the other hand, Tamil Nadu have struggled to infuse any sort of rhythm into their game. After their opening match thrashing against Karnataka, they played well to beat Jammu and Kashmir. However, in their last match against Railways at Chepauk, they ended up conceding the all-important first innings lead. “We need to stick to the basics correctly. We haven’t played to our potential. We have a lot of promising youngsters in the squad and we are confident of putting up a good show this time around,” said R Prasanna, the Tamil Nadu captain.
The onus will be on star players Abhinav Mukund and Dinesh Karthik to set the tone of the innings. Both players are in a rich vein of form with a century each so far this season and will be hoping to continue in the same fashion.
Bengal have persisted with a greentop wicket. Shukla is confident of producing the goods this time around. “The plan of playing on a greentop has not backfired. We have not played proper cricket. Everyone needs to buck up and show what they are capable of out there in the field,” he said.
So far, Tamil Nadu have favoured a three-pronged spin attack. But they may have to rethink their strategy this time around. However, Prasanna felt his side can utilise the wicket to their advantage. “We have quality seamers in the form of L Balaji, M Mohammed, J Kaushik in our ranks. They are more than capable of bowling in such conditions.”
The match will see former Bengal coach WV Raman return to the Eden Gardens, this time as the visitor’s coach. “He has shared his experience with us (about Bengal) which should hold us in good stead. However the match will be between two quality sides and whoever plays well will emerge triumphant,” said Prasanna.