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Bengal get Shami boost

Yusuf Pathan and Mohammed Shami, at the Eden, on Saturday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: Bengal got a big boost on Saturday. India pacer Mohammed Shami has been included in the 17-man squad for Tuesday’s Vijay Hazare Trophy quarter final tie against Tamil Nadu.

With Ravichandran Ashwin being part of the Tamil Nadu squad, scheduled to arrive on Sunday morning, the Bengal team management reacted quickly by adding Shami in the scheme of things for the all-important clash. “Shami’s inclusion is certainly a bonus. He’s in good form and with him in the side, our bowling attack only gets stronger.

“Besides, he himself, too, was quite eager to play this game. There couldn’t have been a better news for us,” captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla said.

A little bit of niggle is there, but as of now, Bengal look assured of the 23-year-old’s presence in the final XI. “Look, after having played so many matches in the season, you simply cannot expect a player to be 100 per cent fit. It’s not fair.

“But it doesn’t mean that the player can’t turn up for a one-day game. So, we are certain that Shami will be playing,” Shukla added.

Shami himself, too, believes that playing Tuesday’s quarter-final tie will keep him in good shape going into the World T20. “Playing for Bengal is well and truly a priority for me. It’s my home team.

“Besides, it’s important to get some match practice and be in good shape before the World T20, a tournament where I seriously want to make an impact,” he stressed, here, at the Eden, on Saturday.

With both Ashok Dinda and Veer Pratap Singh amongst wickets, Shami’s inclusion will further strengthen Bengal’s pace attack that was instrumental in guiding the team to the semi-finals of the Ranji Trophy. Even without Shami, the pacers have done a pretty good job this season. So, their performance should only be better and the pressure ought to be eased off now that Shami is back in the side.

Talking about the Bengal-Tamil Nadu encounter, Shami believes presence of Woorkeri Raman in the rival camp is not much of a concern. Bengal, rather, should focus on their strategies, he emphasised.

“Raman may have his own strategy for his team, but we too have ours. So, I really don’t think we should be perturbed by their way of strategising. All we need to do is focus on our plans. We will try and keep it as simple as possible. And the best way to do so is keeping their strong batting line-up in check,” Shami pointed out.

Moving on to the World T20 where India begin their campaign against Pakistan on March 21, at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Shami said: “We will look to try and beat them. We’ve beaten Pakistan before in the previous editions. So, I don’t see why we can’t do so on this occasion as well.

“There have been occasions this season when we haven’t been able to play to our potential, which led to some defeats. Our performance, no doubt, has been disappointing. But that’s not everything. We’ve had quite a few good moments as well.

“We know we have it in us to play good cricket and force our opponents into submission. We will look to do that when we begin our World T20 campaign and avenge the Asia Cup loss, which hurt us a lot.”

THE SQUAD

Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Wriddhiman Saha, Sreevats Goswami, Sudip Chatterjee, Manoj Tiwary, Sayan Sekhar Mondal, Boddupalli Amit, Debabrata Das, Sourashish Lahiri, Iresh Saxena, Veer Pratap Singh, Mohammed Shami, Ashok Dinda, Jayojit Basu, Vivek Singh, Amir Gani, Pritam Chakraborty.