|Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Murali Kartik, at the Eden, on Tuesday. A Telegraph picture
Calcutta: The Eden, on Tuesday morning, bubbled with the excitement of a kid who is anxious to show off his new bicycle to the world, going overboard on the wheels of emotions, caring little for the need for reason.
At 11.30 am, there was a sudden commotion among the photographers as Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president Jagmohan Dalmiya walked onto the ground. The entire Bengal squad assembled as the veteran administrator gave a ‘pep talk’.
Soon after, Dalmiya, during a media interaction, announced that the players would be rewarded with a “package” if they return victorious from the Ranji Trophy quarter-final tie against Railways.
Cut to scene three: Tilaks were being sketched on the foreheads of the Bengal players and the CAB officials as a well-wisher had offered puja at the Kalighat temple, praying for a Bengal victory.
The media played its part too as a crowd of almost 50, scribes and camera personnel combined, made the Dr BC Roy Club House look like a beehive.
One isn’t really questioning such reactions to the occasion, but the scene was definitely different from the usual picture during a Ranji Trophy game when, apart from the players, only a small group of media persons are in attendance.
To be honest, it was a welcome sight in domestic cricket, where empty stands fail to applaud many a robust performance. It has also heightened the excitement around a match, which is also being termed as a grudge tie because of the tension that prevailed between the players about a month back when they crossed swords in the group league stage.
But one hopes that all such euphoria doesn’t distract the home team, who have reached the quarters of India’s premier domestic tournament after four seasons. The celebration around Team Bengal have almost relegated Railways, the Group B toppers, to the underdogs status. It is in such situations that even the best miss a step and are rendered ordinary.
To go by facts, however, Bengal are truly and fairly looking to be the better team. The Laxmi Ratan Shukla-led side battled inexperience and steep requirements to muscle their way into the quarters. Just when everyone thought that it was going to be another wasted season for the team as far as the Ranji Trophy is concerned, the boys ran over Uttar Pradesh’s challenge and beat Tamil Nadu in a photo-finish to step into the knock-out stage.
Buoyed by back-to-back victories, the team received the injection of experience as senior pros Wriddhiman Saha and Arindam Das rejoined the squad. Both will play the match.
Railways, on the other hand, have been the silent performers. They haven’t been erratic and that has been their biggest strength this season. Barring captain Murali Kartik, there isn’t any popular name in their squad. But the likes of Mahesh Rawat and Arindam Ghosh have been consistent, ensuring that Railways chugged on.
With the pitch sporting a green look, the pacers from both the teams will control much of the match’s fate. Bengal, after a spinner-heavy XI in the last match, will once again go back to their pace trio of Ashok Dinda, Sourav Sarkar and Shib Shankar Paul, who have taken 53 wickets among them this season.
The Railways bowling attack has pacer Anureet Singh (35 wickets from seven matches), Ranjitkumar Mali (23 wickets from five matches) and Krishnakant Upadhyay (19 wickets from seven matches).
So plenty of action is expected over the next five days… Actually, it started on Tuesday itself, as a source revealed that Dinda and Krishnakant shared chit-chats outside the dressing rooms after the practice session. Reactions are expected Wednesday onwards.
Bengal (likely): Arindam Das, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Subhamoy Das, Wriddhiman Saha, Sudeep Chatterjee, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Writtick Chatterjee, Sourasish Lahiri, Ashok Dinda, Shib Shankar Paul, Sourav Sarkar.
Railways (likely): Shivakant Shukla, Murali Kartik, Karn Sharma, Nitin Bhille, Jonathan Rongsen, Harshad Rawle/Ashish Yadav, Arindam Ghosh, Mahesh Rawat, KK Upadhyay, Anureet Singh, Ranjit Mali.
Umpires: Suresh Shastri and Paschim Pathak.
Match Referee: Rajendra Jadeja.
Match starts: 9 am.