| Krishnendu Roy |
Srinagar: The picturesque Polo Ground in the upmarket area was deserted on Wednesday morning. The general strike called by the trade unions had brought normal life in the city to a virtual standstill.
The only place where one could spot some activity was in one corner of the ground where the Bengal footballers were going through their paces under the watchful eyes of coach Krishnendu Roy. Though there was no public transport available, the organisers took special initiative to arrange a bus for the Bengal team.
Bengals sense of urgency was understandable. They havent played their best football en route to the semi-finals and that has kept the thinktank worried. The coach said his team would start afresh in the semi-final on Thursday, but there arent enough reasons to feel assured.
After managing to chalk out just one win in three outings, Bengal are now pitted against Services, who have so far scored 24 goals in seven matches. In Sochungmi Raleng, Services have a striker who has scored 10 goals, including a hattrick in the quarter-final league against Jammu and Kashmir.
I am aware of the presence of Raleng and Shaji DSilva in the Services forwardline, Roy said. But we are not going to employ special markings for them as my defenders know how to stop them.
One hopes that Roys words will come true on the pitch. Against Maharashtra, Bengal defence looked highly vulnerable till Habibur Rehman was brought in. The coach has planned to bring back the three rested players — Habibur, Mehtab Hussain and Seikh Azim — in the starting XI.
Roy is not yet sure whether he would field Asim Das or Tarif Ahmed in the forwardline along with Syed Rahim Nabi. I want to bring in Shankar Oraon in the second half to use his speed, he said.
On Wednesday evening, Roy called all the players for a meeting. Forget the past, he reportedly told his boys. Now that we are in the knock out round, we should start afresh. The aim should be to take the trophy back to Calcutta.
Services coach Raghvendra Singh smiled when asked about his teams prospects against Bengal. They are a famous and experienced side... They are a team full of I-League players. My boys dont get much opportunity to show their skills. On Wednesday, they have a chance. I am sure my players wont let this opportunity go.