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Bengal likely to go in with extra batsman

- Toss holds the key, feels captain Shukla

Ashok Dinda, Manoj Tiwary and Laxmi Ratan Shukla, during a practice session at the Eden, on Thursday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: Laxmi Ratan Shukla is not known to mince words. On Thursday, the Bengal captain sounded confident of making it to the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, though he seemed slightly worried about the toss factor.

“The toss holds the key... The ball has been seaming much in the second session… The conditions are challenging,” said the Bengal captain on the eve of the semi-final versus Railways.

If you had expected a greenish tinge on the wicket at the Eden, you would certainly be in for a surprise. The last straw of grass on the wicket has been shaved off, which now has a barren look.

There’s already talk that the hosts are wary of the Railways’ pace attack comprising Anureet Singh, Krishnakant Upadhyay and Amit Mishra. The trio have been in good form this season and Bengal are not willing to take any risk in conditions which haven’t proved to be easy for the batsmen.

“You can’t do much about it… It’s the host association’s call… We’ve got a complete attack and the seamers have been doing well,” said Railways’ coach Abhay Sharma.

Bengal are already without Mohammed Shami because of his national commitments. The India pacer had formed a lethal combination with Ashok Dinda in their quarter-final triumph over Tamil Nadu.

It is likely that Bengal may go into the semi-final with an extra batsman in Debabrata Das. Dinda, Veer Pratap Singh, Sayan Sekhar Mondal and Shukla will form the pace combination in such a scenario.

In Shami’s absence, Dinda will be the man to watch out for. The pacer is ready to shoulder the additional responsibility and his opening spell could decide the course of the match. The presence of the national selectors is also sure to spur him on.

Veer Pratap has made most of the limited opportunities that has come his way and was impressive even during the Shami-Dinda combined show of excellence on Tuesday.

The inability of the batsmen to score runs in the second session has kept the Bengal thinktank on their toes. Not willing to take any chances, Bengal decided to practice under lights at the Eden.

Shukla had even requested Shib Shankar Paul to join nets to give some valuable practice to the batsmen against the moving ball. There were a few other pacers too, showing how seriously Bengal have taken this match.

Jayojit Basu’s failure in the previous match has opened a debate over whether Wriddhiman Saha would be promoted to open with Sreevats Goswami. But Shukla clarified there would be no change in the opening combination.

More than the bowlers’ accuracy, it was the batsmen’s poor shot selection that led to their dismissals in the quarter-final tie. That Sreevats and Manoj Tiwary fell to poor shots after having done all the hard work didn’t reflect well on the batsmen.

Railways will be banking on local lad Arindam Ghosh’s familiarity of the conditions and his run-scoring spree in the Ranji Trophy to give the innings a look of respectability. One can’t also rule out Mahesh Rawat, whose century against Punjab, tilted the scales in their favour.

Railways have proved to be tough opponents for Bengal this season, not to mention the bad blood that prevailed during the Ranji Trophy. Both sides though decided to dismiss it as a thing of the past. While Bengal surrendered three points in Delhi, they took revenge in the quarter final at the Eden.

TEAMS

Bengal (likely): Sreevats Goswami, Jayojit Basu, Sudip Chatterjee, Manoj Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Debabrata Das, Sayan Sekhar Mondal, Sourashish Lahiri, Veer Pratap Singh, Ashok Dinda.

Railways (likely): Amit Paunikar, Shivakant Shukla, Arindam Ghosh, Mahesh Rawat, Ashish Yadav, Rongsen Jonathan, Karn Sharma, Chanderpal Saini, Amit Mishra, Anureet Singh, Krishnakant Upadhyay.

Match starts: 1.30 pm.