Manoj Tiwary will have the unique distinction of wearing two hats for Bengal as the state Sports Minister will captain the side against Uttar Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy opener at the Eden Gardens here on Tuesday.
Tiwary, who earlier led the zonal team while being a minister, last led the state team in 2018-19. He took up the responsibility for the first two matches as regular skipper Abhimanyu Easwaran joined the Indian squad for the Test series against Bangladesh.
With his wealth of experience, 37-year-old Tiwary will inspire the home team in a battle of two semifinalists of the previous season.
The biggest challenge for Bengal, which reached the quarterfinals of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and narrowly missed out on a Vijay Hazare Trophy knockouts berth, is to fill Easwaran’s void. The unavailability of pacer Mukesh Kumar, who is out with an injury, is another issue.
Bengal will rely on Tiwary, Anustup Majumdar, Sudip Gharami and all-rounders Shahbaz Ahmed and Sayan Shekhar Mondal in batting while eyeing a good start.
On a pitch that may offer some help for the faster bowlers, Ishan Porel and Akash Deep will lead Bengal’s pace attack.
“It is always an honour to lead Bengal. Preparations have been spot on. Now it’s about executing the plans,” Tiwary said.
Uttar Pradesh, also looking forward to a good beginning, has a decent batting line-up, consisting of captain Karan Sharma, Akshdeep Nath, Priyam Garg and Rinku Singh.
Ankit Rajpoot and Shivam Mavi will lead the pacers. Shivam Sharma and Shiva Singh provide options in the spin department even as Saurabh Kumar is in Bangladesh to serve India.
“Our batters are confident after getting some runs in the Vijay Hazare knockouts. We have a good attack and it may be a competitive match,” said Uttar Pradesh coach Ajay Ratra.
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