| Ashok Dinda during a practice session, at the Eden, on Monday. A Telegraph picture |
Calcutta: For the last couple of days, Laxmi Ratan Shukla hasn’t been his usual self, looking a tad subdued and quieter during the training sessions.
Quizzed on Monday, he said the reason for the toned-down look is because of “a little bit of fever.”
Now, is it because he is readying himself for a big one to pull Bengal through in the all-important Vijay Hazare Trophy quarter final clash against Tamil Nadu and doesn’t want his concentration to be diverted?
Well, you will find it out when the two sides cross swords, on Tuesday, at the Eden.
For the last few matches, the Bengal captain hasn’t been among runs, getting just 52 from his last three innings. Considering the standards Shukla has set for himself, especially over the last few seasons, it looks as good as astonishing if there aren’t many runs to show beside his name. In that sense, a match-turning knock is certainly due from the 32-year-old.
Besides, Bengal’s clash against Tamil Nadu gets another dimension, thanks to the Woorkeri Raman factor. Officially though, both camps have emphasised on moving ahead instead of looking backwards. The stage, however, is set for Shukla to make an impact.
For the moment, the batsmen have been doing a decent job. What could provide the team management some relief is Manoj Tiwary regaining his touch with a run-a-ball 90 in the must-win game against Assam.
Sudip Chatterjee and Wriddhiman Saha have been consistent, while Sreevats Goswami finally seems to be doing some justice to his talent . There’s also a possibility of bringing in Jayojit Basu to strengthen the top order at the expense of Debabrata Das.
Unlike their batting, the Tamil Nadu bowling is by no means fiery. Definitely, they do have good spinners in Baba Aparajith and Rahil Shah, with Ravichandran Ashwin providing the star element. Among their pacers, Lakshmipathy Balaji looks to be the only name that could create doubts in the minds of their opponents.
That said, the Eden pitch is hard and firm with a fair sprinkling of grass. Given Balaji’s wealth of experience at the domestic circuit, he can very well make Bengal batsmen pay for their momentary lapses.
Otherwise, conditions are pretty much in favour of the hosts, who seem to have in mind the rank turner that was provided when the two sides met in the Ranji Trophy group stage, at the Chepauk.
Just as the ploy boomeranged on Tamil Nadu, the possibility of the same happening with Bengal cannot be written off altogether because the visitors do have a fantastic batting line-up, comprising the likes of Murali Vijay, Dinesh Karthik, captain Subramaniam Badrinath and Srikkanth Anirudha.
The Mohammed Shamis and Ashok Dindas may have their tail up given the nature of the pitch. But if they err in line and length, they are surely going to have a tough time, especially against the rival top order.
Both Karthik and Ashwin intended to attend Tamil Nadu’s practice session on the match eve, once they landed at noon, on Monday. But thanks to their driver’s unfamiliarity with the practice venue, they couldn’t even reach the Jadavpur University Salt Lake Campus ground. Coach Raman then said they needn’t come since it was already very late.
Bengal would only hope the duo don’t take their frustration out when the action gets underway.
Bengal (likely): Sreevats Goswami, Jayojit Basu, Sudip Chatterjee, Manoj Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Sayan Sekhar Mondal, Sourashish Lahiri, Mohammed Shami, Veer Pratap Singh, Ashok Dinda
Match starts: 1.30pm