| Nikhil Haldipur
Calcutta:Bengal haven’t had a dream run in the Ranji Trophy this season. A whipping at the hands of Rajasthan was followed by a close shave against Karnataka. In the last game, they made a bit of a revival and actually missed out on an outright win against Tamil Nadu.
The inconsistent performance has pushed Bengal to a corner. The Elite group B game against Assam, starting at the Eden on Monday, will thus be a do-or-die affair for the East Zone giants. This mood of desperation was pretty much evident in the Bengal camp on Sunday, the eve of their crucial match.
“An outright victory is a must. If we have to eye a semi-final berth, four points are an absolute must,” Bengal coach Karsan Ghavri said after an intensive three-hour practice session this morning.
Bengal, in fact, will have to look for a bonus point, if possible. “Ideally, a five-pointer will give us some breathing space,” the coach felt. As of now, Bengal have just two points in their kitty — both from the Tamil Nadu game — after drawing a blank in the first two outings against Rajasthan and Karnataka.
The former India allrounder made it very clear that it’s time the spinners delivered, or else, Bengal’s hopes of a last-four berth will soon evaporate.
“The pace bowlers, especially Shib Sankar Paul, have been doing a sterling job... it’s time for the others to put their hands up,” the coach said.
“You cannot win matches if your spinners don’t take wickets on a regular basis, and sadly, our slower bowlers haven’t been doing the job this season.”
The spinners’ lack of form notwithstanding, the nature of the pitch will force Bengal to go in with three slow bowlers — unless there is a drastic change in plans on the morning of the match.
“This game is vital, we must make sure of forcing a first-innings lead at least,” Assam coach Abdul Jabbar said.
His hope rests on the batsmen, who have been quite upto the task till now. V. Sarvanam, Kiran Pawar and Sukhwinder Singh have hit centuries, lending respectability to the totals.
“Bengal are a better side, but I can assure them a tough fight,” Jabbar said.