| In-form Ashok Dinda will lead Bengal attack |
New Delhi: The Karnail Singh Stadium, nestling near the busy New Delhi railway station in the heart of the nations capital, is not the kind of sports venue that is likely to figure among the local fans favourites but that can change over the next four days with a lot of cricket lovers making a beeline for this quaint ground.
And one man can take the blame for that: the charismatic former India skipper Sourav Ganguly. He will be playing his farewell first class game, the Ranji Trophy Plate Division semi-final for Bengal against Goa. His 42nd Ranji Trophy appearance will signal the end of a great first-class career that began in March 1990.
A couple of pounds heavier than when he left the international stage at the end of Indias 2-0 victory over Australia in Nagpur last month, Sourav showed enthusiasm and commitment to be at the nets within minutes of checking in to the team hotel on Wednesday morning. The focus will be on how he motivates himself to deliver another memorable performance.
The left-handed batsman showed no signs of nerves or emotions that you would associate with farewell games. On the contrary, he was relaxed and waved off any suggestions of any pressure, making it clear that his hunger to remain competitive and perform well was not dimmed.
Interestingly, Bengal coach Utpal Chatterjee believes Souravs presence alone can make a difference. The youngsters in our team are all enthused by his presence and I am sure the opposition with feel daunted by Souravs presence. And, if he fails, Goa is likely to be lulled into complacency, he said.
Bengal sure have a bunch that look good to make it past Goa. Wriddhiman Saha and Manoj Tiwary have been among the runs while Ranadeb Bose and Ashok Dinda have been the key wicket-takers for Bengal and are expected to lead the attack again. With advisor Mohinder Amarnath joining the squad, the team know that they will have to work hard to gain a place in the Elite Division quarter finals.
Bengal and Goa have never played each other, not only in the Ranji Trophy, but also in any form of senior cricket.
The Karnail Singh Stadium track is the kind that can throw up a result for the team who are ready to work hard and make fewer mistakes than their opposition. On their home ground, Railways played out a draw against Baroda, beat Andhra but just about held off Uttar Pradeshs charge for a win.
Sourav squatted with the rest of his mates along with the coaching staff for a team meeting under what can be described as more harsh than the winter sun expected in Delhi in the third week of December. For someone who had always used the Ranji Trophy as a platform for larger feats, he will be quite unfamiliar to the task of playing a first class game with no pressure at all.
Having been docked a point for fielding four professionals (instead of the permitted three) in a game against Kerala, Goa just about made it to the semi-finals, thanks to Jammu and Kashmirs upset win against fancied Haryana last week. But that does not mean that Bengal will view Goa lightly.
Bengal (likely): Avik Chowdhury, Wriddhiman Saha, Sourav Ganguly, Manoj Tiwary, Laxmi Ratan Shukla (captain), Ritam Kundu/Iresh Saxena, Dibyendu Chakraborty, Ashok Dinda, Sourav Sarkar, Ranadeb Bose, Anustup Majumder.
Goa (from): Swapnil Asnodkar (captain), Sagun Kamat, Aditya Angle, Rohit Asnodkar, Ajay Ratra (wicket-keeper), Advait Katkar, Shadab Jakati, Saurabh Bandekar, Arney Parvelkar, Robin DSouza, Harshad Gadekar, Aniket Desai, Ryan DSouza, Ryan Ninan, Santosh Shinde and Sherbahadur Yadav.
Umpires: Gokhale & Das