Vijay Hazare Trophy: Bowlers hold the key in Bengal-Maharashtra clash

Last year, though the states failed to make it past the league phase, Maharashtra played all its matches in the Capital and the experience could add to the confidence of skipper Kedar Jadhav and his men.

Pragyan Ojha’s performance will be key to Bengal’s fortunes in the Vijay Hazare Trophy quarterfinals.   -  K. Bhagya Prakash

A battle of equals is on the cards when Bengal takes on an understated Maharashtra on Wednesday for a place in the semifinals of the Vijay Hazare trophy at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground.

Both the teams won five out of their six league matches to make the knockout phase.

Last year, though the states failed to make it past the league phase, Maharashtra played all its matches in the Capital and the experience could add to the confidence of skipper Kedar Jadhav and his men.

This season, the pitch at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground has played fair with the toss ceasing to be a decisive factor. A total of around 250-260 is considered par on this surface.

Bengal, with Manoj Tiwary at the helm, appears a well-settled unit. Openers Shreevats Goswami and Abhimanyu Easwaran, with Sudip Chatterjee to follow, form a formidable frontline. Among the bowlers, Ashok Dinda and Pragyan Ojha, along with a more disciplined Sayan Ghosh form the core of the attack. New-ball bowler Kanishk Seth and off-spinner Aamir Gani are the other two regulars at Tiwary’s disposal. In addition, the captain is always ready to bowl, if required.

Maharashtra has the batting firepower to deal with this threat. Jadhav, coming in at No. 4, is capable of tearing into any attack. With 331 from seven outings, Jadhav’s form looks good. Another positive for Maharashtra is the display of opener Ruturaj Gaekwad, who has plundered 401 runs from seven innings. With Ankit Bawne keen to justify his presence in this year’s Indian Premier League, the side has a good number of inspired batsmen to deliver the goods in this format.

In the bowling department, medium pacer Shrikant Mundhe and left-arm spinner Jadgish Zope have so far done their job. They have scalped 14 wickets each so far in the competition.

Overall, it promises to be an exiting contest. Even with the batting strength of the teams, the key could well be how the bowlers make their presence felt on Wednesday.

The teams:

  • Bengal: Manoj Tiwary (captain), Shreevats Goswami, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Sudip Chatterjee, Anustup Majumdar, Debabrata Das, Aamir Gani, Kanishk Seth, Ashok Dinda, Pragyan Ojha, Sayan Ghosh, Mukesh Kumar, Abhishek Raman and Pankaj Shaw.
  • Maharashtra: Kedar Jadhav (captain), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Chirag Khurana, Ankit Bawne, Rahul Tripathi, Naushad Shaikh, Nikhil Naik, Shrikant Mundhe, Jagdish Zope, Nikit Dhumal, Pradeep Dadhe, Vijay Zol, Anupam Sanklecha, Satyajeet Bachhav, Prayag Bhati and Shamshuzama Kazi.