Bengal captain and Sports Minister Manoj Tiwary has stretched himself the extra yard and is keen to have a fairytale final by lifting the coveted Ranji Trophy at the iconic Eden Gardens, which last hosted a summit clash in 1990 and saw the host emerge as the champions.
Jaydev Unadkat, who led Saurashtra to beat Bengal at Rajkot three years ago for its maiden crown, is eager to replicate the feat of 2020 and has got released from the Indian Test squad to boost his side in a repeat of the title clash, starting here on Thursday, at his ‘home away from home’.
The core has remained the same for both sides. While Bengal reached the semifinals last season and the final now, Saurashtra entered its second final in three seasons.
Bengal has scored heavily, thanks to the consistent showing of Anustup Majumdar, Abhimanyu Easwaran and Sudip Gharami. Its bowlers, led by Akash Deep, Mukesh Kumar and Ishan Porel, have been disciplined.
Shahbaz Ahmed has been an asset. The all-rounder, who had fever on Tuesday, is available for selection. The hunt for opener Abhimanyu’s partner may bring in Sumanto Gupta.
Bengal batters faced four left-arm pacers at the nets to prepare for the challenge expected from Unadkat and Chetan Sakariya.
Tiwary, who has infused the pride of playing for Bengal in his teammates, has avoided using the word ‘revenge’ in the dressing room to keep the adrenalin in check.
Noting that the Saurashtra tailenders survived too long to hurt Bengal three years ago, Tiwary does not want a repeat of that.
Saurashtra, which is the current Vijay Hazare champion, has depth in batting, variety in bowling and ample self-confidence even without Test regulars Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja. The team has pulled off some remarkable wins. Prolific scorers Arpit Vasavada, who led Saurashtra in some matches, Harvik Desai, Sheldon Jackson and all-rounder Chirag Jani have contributed significantly.
Even though spinners Dhramendra Jadeja and Yuvraj Dodiya have led Saurashtra’s bowling chart, the team has some quality seamers, including Unadkat, Sakariya and Jani.
The pacers from both teams will enjoy themselves on a green track.
Having played for Kolkata Knight Riders, Unadkat said he would make sure the pitch would be challenging for batters of both sides.
The Cricket Association of Bengal will open a few stands for the public to lift the ambience of the much-awaited contest.
The teams (from):
Bengal: Manoj Tiwary (Capt.), Abhimanyu Easwaran, Sudip Gharami, Anustup Majumdar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Sumanto Gupta, Abishek Porel (wk), Pradipta Pramanik, Ishan Porel, Mukesh Kumar, Akash Deep, Kazi Junaid Saifi, Geet Puri, Pritam Chakraborty, Akash Ghatak, Subhankar Bol, Durgesh Dubey, Karan Lal and Ankit Mishra.
Saurashtra: Jaydev Unadkat (Capt.), Sheldon Jackson, Prerak Mankad, Chirag Jani, Samarth Vyas, Arpit Vasavada, Harvik Desai (wk), Chetan Sakariya, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Snell Patel, Yuvraj Dodiya, Parth Bhut, Navneet Vora, Devang Karamta, Kushang Patel, Vishwarajsinh Jadeja and Jay Gohil.