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Bengal to play for pride

Calcutta: Realistically, Bengal have nothing much to gain when they meet Railways in their last match of the Ranji Trophy, beginning here, at the JU Campus ground, Salt Lake, from Saturday.

Considering their current position in Group A, even a victory with bonus point will not be enough for Bengal to get them through to the next round.

Having come across yet another unsuccessful Ranji campaign, all that the hosts may look forward to at the moment is an impressive debut of young Sandipan Das, who in all likelihood will bat at No. 6 in place of Debabrata Das.

Pacer Shib Shankar Paul is likely to make a comeback after being in the wilderness for five years. His first-class future will depend to a certain extent on how he performs in this game.

Paul is also on the threshold of reaching the milestone of 200 first-class wickets, a feat he might achieve if selected in the final XI.

“I’ve worked extremely hard for the last three years, which has reaped me rewards. Besides, I kept reminding myself of the effort that was put in by Sourav (Ganguly), when he went through tough times, to return to the Indian team.

“It motivated me to a huge extent,” the 31-year-old, with 196 wickets in his tally so far, said on the match eve.

Apart from Paul, Sourav Sarkar and Veer Pratap Singh are likely to be the other pacers, with Iresh Saxena as the sole spinner. Precisely, the nature of the pitch is such that it doesn’t tempt the hosts to tinker with the three-pacers-one-spinner attack, a combination they have opted for right from the start of the season.

The track may assist fast bowlers on Day One, but thereafter, batsmen are likely to find it much easier.

No matter how the pitch behaves, batting continues to be Bengal’s area of concern, more so, with the absence of all-rounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla.

With four key members (Manoj Tiwary, Shukla, Ashok Dinda and Shami Ahmed) of the side missing the tie, it’s now left to makeshift captain Wriddhiman Saha to lead from the front. The likes of Arindam Das and Abhishek Jhunjhunwala too need to fire to brighten their prospects for the next season.

However, on the bowling front, Bengal don’t have too many reasons to worry about as the bowlers have been disciplined and consistent.

On the other hand, a victory to Railways might still provide them with an outside chance of reaching the next round since they are a step higher than Bengal in the standings.

Like Bengal, they might have won just one game so far. But they are also one of the sides in the group who are yet to lose a contest.

Led by the experienced Sanjay Bangar, the likes of Amit Paunikar and Shivakant Shukla have ensured Railways to be a hard nut to crack. Something that Bengal need to be aware of.

Fixtures

Group A
In Calcutta: Bengal vs Railways
In Jaipur: Rajasthan vs Hyderabad
In Mumbai: Mumbai vs Gujarat
In Rajkot: Saurashtra vs Madhya Pradesh
Group B
In Chennai: Tamil Nadu vs Haryana
In Cuttack: Odisha vs UP
In Nagpur: Vidarbha vs Delhi
In Pune: Maharashtra vs Karnataka
Group C
In Cuddapah: Andhra vs Kerala
In Jammu: Jammu & Kashmir vs Tripura
In New Delhi: Services vs Jharkhand
In Porvorim: Goa vs Assam