The Telegraph
Saturday , December 15 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengal look for elusive victory

Calcutta: Even before a ball has been bowled in the Bengal-Hyderabad Ranji Trophy match, which begins on Saturday, the Woorkeri Raman-coach side are on the mat. That’s because of the situation they have got themselves into.

If six points from their first three Ranji Trophy matches had kept them in the running for a quarter-final berth, two embarrassing defeats and a point from three back-to-back away matches have severely dented their prospects.

If one goes by the Group A table, Bengal are currently placed fifth with six points. Mathematically, it is possible for Bengal to qualify for the next stage, provided they register outright wins in their remaining two encounters, which are at home, and the results of other matches, too, help their cause.

So, it’s desperate times for Team Bengal. They need wins, else they might have to let go their Group A berth.

The problem with Bengal this season is nothing new. The failure to perform as a team has been an age-old problem. Be it Manoj Tiwary’s 191 against Gujarat, or Wriddhiman Saha’s consistent performances or Iresh Saxena’s 11-wicket match-haul against Saurashtra, there have been individual brilliance. But where’s the team?

Laxmi Ratan Shukla, who was named as the captain for the remaining two matches in place of the injured Manoj Tiwary, got down to business on Friday.

At the end of the practice session, the Bengal captain emphasised on playing a team game and having a positive attitude. “We’ve got to apply ourselves. We have performed well as individuals but we failed to get going as a team. The bottom line is we failed to maintain the momentum and could not perform in the crucial moments of the match.

“But then, there is no crying over spilt milk. We have got to keep a positive attitude and perform as a team,” Shukla said.

The Eden pitch, which this time sports a greenish look, will play a key role. In the absence of pacer Ashok Dinda, who is on national duty, and Sourav Sarkar, who picked up an arm injury on the match-eve, Bengal will be banking on the firepower of Shami Ahmed, Sayan Sekhar Mondal and Veer Pratap Singh to destroy Hyderabad.

Similarly, for Hyderabad, medium-pacer Ashish Reddy, who has taken 12 wickets in three matches, will also have to take the responsibility for the visitors.