Ranji Trophy QF: Saha-less Bengal hold pole position against Jharkhand

BENGALURU: Their most decorated player, Wriddhiman Saha, may have left the team in the lurch owing to his personal grudge against the establishment, but the Abhimanyu Easwaran-led Bengal will still start as favourites against Jharkhand with their pace troika ready to let it rip in their Ranji Trophy quarter-final, starting from Monday.
The trio of Mukesh Kumar (15 wickets), Ishan Porel (14 wickets) and Akash Deep (10 wickets) has been the most prolific pace attack in the country and with a cumulative count of 39 wickets among the 58 that Bengal got this season, they will come all guns blazing at the Jharkhand line-up, which has shown firepower during the league stages.
However, the likes of Kumar Deobrat, Kumar Kushagra, Virat Singh will like to forget their overwhelming near 900-run innings score against Nagaland, which was their pre-quarter-final at the Eden Gardens.
It will be a very different fight against one of the best domestic bowling attacks in the country along with the gutsy spin-bowling all-rounder Shahbaz Ahmed (8 wickets) for company.
When a senior player puts self above team
Out of the Indian Test team as the new management doesn’t want a 37-year-old second keeper, an upset Wriddhiman had cited “personal reasons” for not playing in the league stages, where the team found a new star in 19-year-old Abhishek Porel.
However, after doing a star turn for Gujarat Titans in the IPL, the India discard demanded a public apology from state body office-bearer Debabrata Das for allegedly insulting him.
Subsequently, he decided to not play one of the most important matches of the season for the state team, which made him the cricketer that he is today.
In this backdrop, the Bengal side, without arguably its No. 1 player with 40-Test experience, is sure to feel let down but will be determined to prove a point that it has long back adapted to life without an India “star”.
“We would have liked him as he is a big player but if someone is so unwilling to play, his wish should be respected. If someone isn’t interested, then forcing that person to play is often detrimental to a side’s interest,” a member of the team management told PTI ahead of the match.
Bengal fretting about No. 3 and No. 8 positions
With the Just Cricket Academy ground producing a proper “five-day” wicket, Bengal coach Saurasish Lahiri pointed out that a couple of slots are up for grabs.
For the No. 3 spot, it will be a toss-up between two stodgy left-handers with good defensive game — the diminutive Abhishek Raman and the lanky Sudip Chatterjee.
“It’s a tough call as both are quality players,” Lahiri said.
The other position up for grab is the all-rounder’s slot where Sayan Sekhar Mondal, with his hard-hitting batting and good seam-up stuff at close to 130 clicks, is considered a better bet than Writtick Chatterjee, who bowls off-spin and also have a double hundred in first-class cricket. —Agencies

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