Calcutta: If team composition and strength on paper are the yardstick, Bengal and Jharkhand are evenly matched in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
But when they meet at Eden Gardens on Monday, it will be not just be about reputation. Current form and the ability to show character in a crucial encounter will go a long way in determining who will prevail on the given day.
With Assam having won both their matches so far with bonus points, a defeat is sure to put the losers under pressure. Both Bengal and Jharkhand have played one match in the zonal leg so far, logging in four points each.
Intermittent rain throughout Sunday has cast a doubt over the timely start to the match. Both teams failed to go through their net practice on the eve of the match and had to be content with gym sessions.
The hosts no doubt will be handicapped by the absence of Manoj Tiwary and Ashok Dinda. Both played a crucial role in Bengal’s victory against Odisha in the opening match.
Coach Woorkeri Raman knows that these things are beyond his control. “It can be a bit unsettling but can’t be helped. It will be for the youngsters to make use of the opportunities,” he said.
Raman is more concerned about the batting blues that had very nearly robbed them of a victory against Odisha. He knows that the “collective failure” at the Jadavpur University Salt Lake Campus ground has to change overnight.
Laxmi Ratan Shukla, whose superb spell had ensured the five-wicket win, hoped the batsmen would stand up to the challenge. “We’ve got to show patience. We’ve got to bat longer and concentrate on staying at the crease,” the Bengal captain said.
Shukla may come up the order to give solidity to the batting line-up. Subhomoy Das is likely to replace Manoj while Sourav Sarkar will come in for Dinda.
The decision to promote Sourasish Lahiri into the opener’s role along with Arindam Das has come in for a lot of discussion but Shukla wants to give the off-spinner a decent run. “We want to give everyone a decent run,” Shukla said.
In the absence of Manoj, the batsmen will need to show the right application and temperament. The way some of the batsmen threw their wickets away against Odisha was disgraceful, and had it not been for the bowlers’ inspired performance, things could have proved to be disastrous.
Jharkhand, too, have been bothered by the middle-order blues. Apart from Ishank Jaggi’s 84 none of the batsmen made significant contributions. But with no dearth of inexperience, the likes of Saurabh Tiwary and Subroto Ghosh will also have to pitch in with useful scores.
The weathermen have predicted clear skies for Monday. But in case of a truncated match, the toss will prove to be vital. As was indicated by Shukla, Bengal would prefer to chase given the conditions.
Bengal (likely): Arindam Das, Sourasish Lahiri, Sandipan Das, Subhomoy Das, Anustup Majumder, Wriddhiman Saha, Laxmi Ratan Shukla (captain), Debabrata Das, Sourav Sarkar, Iresh Saxena, Shami Ahmed.
Jharkhand (likely): Subroto Ghosh, Rameez Nemat, Ishank Jaggi, Saurabh Tiwary, Deepak Chougule, Kumar Deobrat, SP Gautam, Shahbaz Nadeem, Sunny Gupta, Rahul Shukla, Jaskaran Singh
Match starts: 9 am