The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengal, Rajasthan pace themselves for opener
- Ranji trophy l Both teams opt for 3 quicks on ‘slow’ strip

Calcutta: With the newly-laid Eden Gardens track having a tinge of green, both Bengal and Rajasthan set themselves up to go all guns blazing in their opening Ranji Trophy encounter starting on Saturday.

The idea being floated by both teams that the pitch is slow is more in the nature of a red herring. It’s likely they’ll go in with three specialist quicks. The Bengal pace attack consists of Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Ranadeb Bose and Shibshankar Paul. Sanjeeb Sanyal too can be a steady medium-pacer.

In case there’s a last minute change, left-arm spinner Murtaza Lodhgar will play in place of either Paul or Bose.

On the other hand, Rajasthan’s pace trio is made up of Sumit Mathur, Kishen Chowdhury (both debutants) and P. Krishnakumar. Sanjeev Sharma, who doubles as Rajasthan coach and is well past his prime, still bowls a bit of medium-pace.

“The pitch resembles a traditional Eden track and we are still undecided on the final XI,” Bengal coach Sambaran Banerjee said. Though the coach said that the grass might be mowed, sources in the team management feel the grass would be left untouched.

The coach added that endurance at the wicket would be a key factor. “It’ll be all about concentration and application,” Banerjee said.

The Rajasthan coach also didn’t differ with the Bengal coach on the nature of the wicket. “It looks a very good batting wicket,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Bengal contingent made it clear they aren’t taking Rajasthan lightly. “True, we beat them convincingly last time around. But it’s a whole new ball game,” the Bengal captain Rohan Gavaskar said. He, however, said that he isn’t too keen about the nature of opposition. “The bottom-line is we have to perform, there’s no point pondering over the quality of opposition,” he said.

Asked about the preparations, the captain said, “We had a tough work-out and the team’s looking in quite a good shape.” Banerjee also echoed his captain’s views. “We have got a number of youngsters and the major plus is that they are extremely fit.”

Though very friendly with his players on his first assignment as a coach, Banerjee said that he would be extremely harsh on any onfield lapses. “I have decided to fine each bowler Rs 50 for a no-ball. If they continue with their lapses, I might drop them in the later games,” the coach said.

Banerjee added that the new format has been a big motivating factor. “Though there are no lose games, one good performance can bring a player into national reckoning.”

Teams (Likely)

Bengal: Deep Dasgupta, Amitava Chakraborty, Devang Gandhi, Rohan Gavaskar, Subhamoy Das, Sanjeeb Sanyal, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Sourashish Lahiri, Utpal Chatterjee, Ranadeb Bose, Shibshankar Paul.

Rajasthan: P. Krishnakumar, Mohammed Aslam, Gagan Khoda, Sanjeev Sharma, Anshu Jain, Rahul Kanwat, Nikhil Doru, Rohit Jalani, Kaushal Devra, Sumit Mathur, Kishen Chowdhury (Lokesh Jain).

Umpires: Vineet Gupta and M.R. Singh (Mumbai) Match Referee: Rakesh Shukla.

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