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A tricky test for Bengal

Calcutta: Compared to the previous ones, the ongoing season has so far been far better for Bengal.

Laxmi Ratan Shukla and his men reached the last-four stage of both the Ranji Trophy and the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Still, the fact that they have been unable to win any silverware despite coming so close annoys them.

However, they can certainly get over that disappointment and finish the season on a high if they win the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Now that would be possible only if they get their act right and play with a positive approach.

But first, Bengal need to get past the zonal leg, which by no means will be an easy task, given the kind of surprises the shortest format can throw at you. So, Shukla and his troops will have to be on their toes when they begin their campaign, on Tuesday, against Assam, at the Eden.

“Playing good cricket is what matters. Having said that, we need to do better than how we fared in the Ranji and Vijay Hazare matches. We need to be on the ball straightaway, as per the demands of the format,” said Shukla.

Assam, on the other hand, would certainly have a good chance if their pacers strike early. Abu Nechim Ahmed and Pritam Das are able enough to make use of favourable conditions and create an impact. And given the latter’s inexperienced opening duo, they will fancy their chances.

Vivek Singh and Sudip Chatterjee, as Shukla said on match eve, are slated to open the innings. Sudip, of course, has been Bengal’s find of the season, putting up pretty impressive performances so far. But whether he will succeed in T20, where you hardly have any time to settle down, remains to be seen.

Talking of Vivek, he has failed to impress in the opportunities provided to him so far by the team management. So he will be eager to make a mark.

Bengal, though, would be relying on Shukla in batting. He has to lead from the front since he is the most explosive batsman in the 16-member squad. And if Shukla does go on to play one of his trademark knocks, the task will become much easier for Bengal.

Shukla is most likely to come in at No. 4, after Manoj Tiwary, while Wriddhiman Saha may bat at No. 5.

In the bowling department, veteran all-rounder Sanjib Sanyal and the captain himself will complement Ashok Dinda and Veer Pratap Singh, while under-19 off-spinner Amir Gani looks set to debut, being the second spinner alongside Sourashish Lahiri.

Bengal may also give Pankaj Shaw a debut, while the possibility of Arnab Nandi’s inclusion cannot be ruled out either.

Assam captain Gokul Sharma was aware of the threat that Shukla and Dinda will pose for his team. “Dinda and Laxmi are match-winners in the Bengal team. We need to get Laxmi out cheaply and attack Dinda early if we want to wrest the initiative,” he said.

He was spot on with his analysis. And the Bengal camp would only be too eager to prove him wrong.