The Telegraph
Friday , November 9 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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The challenge of Punjab and pace

Manoj Tiwary

Calcutta: One is not sure whether Manoj Tiwary and Ashok Dinda’s mind would wander beyond the premises of Mohali’s PCA Stadium to Mumbai where the Team India players would be busy brushing up their skills ahead of the India-England Test series.

But it would be better if their entire focus remains restricted in Mohali, where Bengal take on Punjab in their second match of this season’s Ranji Trophy, simply because the challenge is going to test the Tiwary brigade to the hilt.

Playing on green tops has always been a concern for the Indians and Bengal are not an exception.

While the batsmen usually struggle incessantly to adjust to the bounce of the pitch, the bowlers fail to rise to the occasion and use the rising delivery to good effect.

The home teams, somewhat familiar with the conditions, somehow manage to stitch a proper performance together, but for the visitors it has often been nightmares during daytime.

Bengal’s vulnerability to pace and bounce is profound that at times, they falter even during their home outings. For example, take Bengal’s home match against Tamil Nadu in the last Ranji season.

So pathetic was Bengal’s performance that the visitors not only dominated the proceedings and won the match, but they did so with a bonus point.

Beginning Friday, Bengal once again will have to prove their mettle on a testing surface as the Mohali pitch has a fair sprinkling of grass.

But much has changed over the last year. While almost the entire batting line-up has a new look with the likes of Anustup Majumdar, Subhamoy Das, Jayojit Basu, the bowling attack has players like Sourav Sarkar and Veer Pratap Singh, who are eager to prove a point or two about their capabilities.

The experience of Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha, Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Ashok Dinda will be there to look up to. But even then, it will be extremely difficult four days of action for the visitors.

Punjab have revelled under the similar conditions in their last match, defeating Hyderabad by an innings and 68 runs. The likes of Manpreet Gony, Siddharth Kaul and Sandeep Sharma had hunted the Hyderabad batsmen in pack.

But captain Tiwary sounded optimistic that his side has the wherewithal to shine on a green top. “Tackling a green top is all about the mindset... You need to take the challenge head on and cannot run away from it. I believe that the boys are not afraid to play on this kind of tracků We are ready to face the challenge,” Tiwary told The Telegraph.

“A lot will depend on the how we execute the plans on the field. We will be taking one session at a time and we hope to dominate every session,” he added.

Bengal have started the Ranji Trophy campaign on a sound note, bagging three points against the defending champions Rajasthan. And they will surely look to gain on the positives from the game.

Punjab, however, will be without the talismanic duo of Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh as both the players will be attending the Indian camp.

It remains to be seen whether their absence pegs back the hosts. The Punjab duo were lucky to make the cut in the Indian squad. The onus is now on the Bengal duo, of Tiwary and Dinda, to prove that they would be missed in Mumbai.