Like last season, Bengal once again find themselves in a relatively easy group in the Ranji Trophy, which begins next year on January 5.
Placed in group B, the runners-up of Ranji 2022-23 find themselves placed alongside Andhra, Mumbai, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Bihar. Out of these seven teams, Mumbai are the only elite team and the strongest, at least on paper.
Some of the other teams in group B have done well but occasionally and come nowhere near the consistency of Mumbai. What bodes well for Bengal is that they will be facing Mumbai at home along with Chhattisgarh and Bihar, with the games against Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Kerala and Andhra being away encounters.
Uttar Pradesh do have quite a few impressive players in their ranks, but they struggle to gel as a unit. Bengal had beaten Uttar Pradesh last season at Eden Gardens in their previous meeting between the two teams in Ranji.
“We are not looking at who all are there in our group. We are solely focused on our team and what all we can and need to do in order to go the distance,” head coach Laxmi Ratan Shukla said after he and assistant coach Sourashish Lahiri met with the Cricket Association of Bengal president Snehasish Ganguly at the Eden on Sunday.
In last season’s Ranji final back in February, Bengal lost by nine wickets to champions Saurashtra at the Eden.
The season, however, begins with the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy starting October 16. Placed in group D, Bengal have Vidarbha, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Pondicherry as their opponents. Last year in the national T20s, Bengal had lost to Himachal Pradesh in the quarter finals at home.
The T20s will be followed by the Vijay Hazare Trophy (national one-dayers) that begins on November 23. Bengal, in this competition, are in group E along with Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Baroda, Goa and Nagaland.
The Bengal cricketers will be having a conditioning camp, which begins from the first week of July at the Eden indoor facilities. “There’s still time for Ranji. So we first need to think of the white-ball leg,” Lahiri emphasised.