Bengal have a chance to regain Ranji glory after three decades; Jaydev Unadkat-boosted Saurashtra warns of tough competition
Bengal will have a chance to claim their first Ranji Trophy title in 33 years when they take on Saurashtra, bolstered by the return of seamer and domestic sporting heavyweight Jaydev Unadkat, in the summit clash in Kolkata from Thursday. Bengal will not only be hungry to win the title but will also have a hunger for revenge on their mind. The last time Bengal made it to the final in 2020, Saurashtra won the title on the basis of first innings lead at their home ground in Rajkot.
The two teams are set to clash in a Ranji final once again, this time at the Eden Gardens, a venue where Bengal won their last Ranji Trophy in 1990.
It is not that Bengal is under-performing. They have been on an upward trend since the 2019-20 season, making it to the semi-finals three times in a row. They have played in two finals in this period. In between, the 2020–21 season was abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Opener Abhimanyu Easwaran, all-rounder Shahbaz Ahmed and fast bowler Mukesh Kumar, who have been on the national radar for quite some time now, know very well that a title at the biggest domestic level can be career-changing. feat.
Pacer Akash Deep, with 37 wickets in nine matches, has been in scintillating form this season while youngster Sudeep Gharmi has come in as their second-highest run-scorer (789 runs).
Bengal’s main strength in recent times has been its pace bowling and the trio of Akash Deep, Ishan Porel and Mukesh Kumar will look to capitalize on the Eden green-top.
But against a Saurashtra team strengthened by the return of left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat from the national side, it will be up to the Bengal batsmen to take the first innings lead and maintain their winning lead.
Load on Bengal batsmen
By his own standards, Bengal’s batting mainstay Abhimanyu is yet to strike top form in crucial matches this season and will be hoping to deliver his best in the final.
Experienced Anustup Majumdar has been Bengal’s troubleshooter and their leading scorer with 790 runs, while it will be another test of character for 23-year-old Gharami.
Much credit also goes to their inspirational captain Manoj Tiwary who returned to lead the team after three years and took Bengal to the final along with his senior partner Laxmi Ratan Shukla, who is now Bengal’s head coach.
Tiwari, who is also the state’s sports minister, is 167 runs short of the individual milestone of 10,000 runs in first-class cricket. He may not have been prolific with the bat (398 runs), but his astute captaincy and maturity have worked well for the team.
Speaking to the media, Tiwari said, “I am not thinking about milestones. Speaking from experience, whenever you have a milestone in your mind, the focus changes.”
“The focus is on the current situation. My aim is to make a match-winning contribution, be it 40 or 50, to secure a first innings lead and take it forward. We are thinking of it as just another match – Not watching.” It’s like a final.” Tiwari further said that his team is not looking for ‘revenge’.
“Saurashtra is beating us. We are focusing on the current situation and at the moment it is looking good for Bengal cricket,” he added.
“We don’t want to take the word for granted. To achieve that, obviously you have to beat them in skill-set, tactics and strategy. We can say we have taken our revenge by defeating them.” Asked whether Bengal is wary of Saurashtra’s left-arm fast bowlers, Tiwary said: “We are taking two left-arm fast bowlers and have called some club cricketers who bowl left-arm. All bases have been covered in terms of preparedness.”
Left-arm fast bowler, the X-factor of Saurashtra
Domestic veterans Unadkat and Chetan Sakaria will be their X-factors for the visitors.
Unadkat, who led Saurashtra to the Ranji title in 2020 and Vijay Hazare to victory this season, has been released from the national team and would like to do the same for his side.
Unadkat made it clear that Bengal could not go easy on the Eden green-top pitch with their fast bowling strength.
“One thing I will make sure is that it is a challenge for the batsmen of both the teams. It will not be a challenge only for the Saurashtra batsmen,” Unadkat warned.
“If it is a challenge for our batsmen, it will be a challenge for their batsmen as well.” He said that the final match would be evenly matched with the bowlers of both the teams being on top at times.
“But the batsmen will also have a lot of role to play considering the wicket is bouncy and the outfield is fast.
“If it’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be difficult for both sides. If it’s not, not for both sides,” he signed off.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and was auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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