KOLKATA: Bengal coach Arun Lal, in a matter of fact tone, says: “It’s the best bowling unit in the country. I’ll not take even Bumrah.” Ranadeb Bose, the bowling coach, sounds proud when he says: “They say fast bowlers hunt in pairs. We hunt in packs.” They sounded over-confident at times, but you know where they were coming from. Bowling, especially the pace battery, has been Bengal’s strength this season. On Sunday at Eden Gardens, they put up an exhibition of seam bowling while routing a fancied Karnataka in 36.2 overs for 122.
With a lead of 262 and six wickets in hand at stumps on Day 2 of the Ranji Trophy semifinal, Bengal will kick themselves if they fail to reach a first final since 2007. After Anustup Majumdar took Bengal past 300, the onus was on the bowlers. As a thousand-odd spectator took their seats, the new-ball attack led by Ishan Porel gave them plenty to cheer. The 21-year-old is spoken about as India material from his U-19 World Cup days in 2018 and is already a part of the India A set-up. Porel showed Karnataka why he is special.
When Bengal suspended Ashok Dinda after their first match for disciplinary reasons, there were murmurs in the association as to whether it was a wise call. Since 2012-13, he had been Bengal’s leading wicket-taker every season. But they took a bold call, knowing what they had at their disposal. Apart from Porel, they have Akash Deep, Mukesh Kumar and Nilkantha Das as seam options. Shahbaz Ahmed and Arnab Nandi take care of spin.
“We started preparations much before the season began. Once fitness is taken care of, the rest falls in place. Moreover, they knew they belonged here. Earlier, they used to bowl to retain their spots. Now, they know they are going to play every game. If they miss out, it’s because of conditions and they understand that,” Bose told this daily.
That faith has been repaid by Porel. Hailing from the suburbs, his father Chandranath Porel — a Railway employee who watched his son take 5/39 from the stands — wanted his son to take up kabaddi. Porel’s grandfather was a winner for Bengal in the kabaddi nationals. “It isn’t an expensive sport. But since there is body contact, Ishan was scared. I put him in table tennis. But then he wanted to play cricket. For me that was a big ask, because kits are expensive. Somehow we managed and after playing in Kolkata, he started improving. We want him to play for India.”
A standout performer at junior levels, Porel has been a quick learner. Bose says how Porel picked the brains of Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, R Ashwin during his stint with India A and shared the experience with the Bengal bowlers. “His maturity is beyond age. He wasn’t this quick, but he has put in the hard work. You need muscles and he never misses gym or running sessions,” Bose said.On Sunday, Karnataka had no answers to what Porel asked. While Mukesh was erratic at times, Porel consistently hit the corridor of uncertainty and made the ball move both ways. As the batsmen kept perishing, he broke into celebrations mimicking Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, Mo Salah. “If you see the Indian attack, they back and applaud each other’s performances. We are doing the same. When we get the new ball, we go for the kill. If it doesn’t happen, we try to bowl in tandem and maintain pressure,” he said.
Karnataka unhappy with crowd behaviour
Karnataka have lodged a complaint with the match referee, saying that three players were abused by the crowd. After close of play, K Gowtham was seen exchanging words with the spectators.