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Manoj keeps fingers crossed

- Wriddhiman & Arindam back in the squad for Railways tie
Mohammed Shami (second from left), who was present during Bengal’s practice session at Eden Gardens, with Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Sourasish Lahiri and Ashok Dinda, on Friday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: Everything is suddenly going Bengal’s way. While the first-half of the season saw them deliver lopsided performances, things now appear to be falling into place as the Ranji Trophy approaches its business end.

Not only have they won back-to-back matches to qualify for the quarter finals in a thrilling fashion, their squad has now been bolstered with the injection of key members before they take on Railways, in a grudge match, beginning from Wednesday, at the Eden.

Manoj Tiwary, who has been a prolific scorer for Bengal in the last few seasons, could be part of the playing XI that takes field in the quarter-final tie.

Manoj, who missed the entire group stage of the competition because of a knee injury he picked up back in July, has been named as the 17th member of the Bengal squad, announced on Friday.

However, Manoj would play only if he gets the fitness certificate from the National Cricket Academy (NCA) on Monday. “I’ll be leaving for NCA on Sunday. They will be assessing my fitness level the day after. If I get the green light, only then will I return… Else, I’ll be staying back in Bangalore,” Manoj said.

“For sure, no one would be more pleased than myself if I get a chance to play the quarter-final match. Hope I’m deemed fit. But at the moment, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed.”

Manoj attended Bengal’s training session, on Friday, at the Eden, where he did some knocking for around 20 minutes or so, facing only spinners. “Manoj was supposed to go to the NCA on January 15… He is going earlier in order to test his fitness so that he can play this game. He’s really very keen to play this match,” a Bengal selector said.

Captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla, who, in the absence of key players, has almost single-handedly carried the responsibility of scoring runs when it mattered, was happy with the development.

“No wonder Manoj is a quality player… It will be a huge boost if we can have him in our side. At present, we are playing pretty well and momentum is with us. His inclusion will only add to our strength,” Shukla stressed.

Apart from Manoj, senior batsman Arindam Das and wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha are back as well, replacing the injured Sandipan Das and left-arm spinner Jitendra Shaw.

“We managed to cross the line in Chennai despite the absence of some of our key players. Now that they are back, we’ll certainly be able to go out all guns blazing against Railways,” Shukla said.

THE SQUAD

Laxmi Ratan Shukla (captain), Arindam Das, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Gitimoy Basu, Wriddhiman Saha, Manoj Tiwary, Subhomoy Das, Sudip Chatterjee, Koushik Ghosh, Writtick Chatterjee, Sourasish Lahiri, Arnab Nandi, Sourav Sarkar, Iresh Saxena, Shib Shankar Paul, Ashok Dinda, Sourav Mondal.