Ranji Trophy: Odisha determined to give Bengal run for its money

Against Odisha, Bengal will pray for impressive shows from its captain Abhimanyu Easwaran and top-order batsman Sudip Chatterjee.

Bengal cricketers after winning the Ranji Trophy group league fixture against Punjab in Patiala last week.   -  Ayan Acharya

Hardened by a gruelling pre-season under the guidance of an old-school teacher Arun Lal, Bengal has displayed some miraculous performances in Ranji Trophy group matches and hopes to continue its good run in the quarterfinal clash against Odisha, starting at the DRIEMS ground here on Thursday.

The Bengal story, which includes six debutants, rests on its self-belief and team work. The team has found several match-winners with the bat and the ball.

If Abhishek Raman stepped forward early in the season, Manoj Tiwary lived up to his reputation in crucial situations. The experienced Anustup Majumder chipped in with important knocks, while the big-hearted Shahbaz Ahmed performed with the bat and the ball.

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Lesser-known pacers like Mukesh Kumar and Akash Deep bowled with responsibility. Ishan Porel, despite his limited availability, delivered his best and is ready to serve his state again.

Arun Lal, who scorned ‘mollycoddling’ and ‘load management,’ could see Bengal’s transformation and expected better things in future. “We have the best bowling side in the country,” He said, unperturbed by the uncertainty over Akash Deep.

For this match, he believed that his team — which last reached the quarters in 2017-18 — has the wherewithal to blunt Odisha’s challenge on a green and hard track.

Bengal will pray for impressive shows from its captain Abhimanyu Easwaran and top-order batsman Sudip Chatterjee.

Dreaming big

For Odisha, which previously played the quarterfinals in 2016-17, this season has been a leap of faith too. Coach Rashmi Ranjan Parida, who played for five states and lifted the Ranji Trophy with the Rajasthan team, convinced his players to dream big and got a good response.

“I told the boys that they don’t belong to Group-C. We have to stick to our strength, play fearless cricket and treat this one as another match,” said Parida, who witnessed the side earn four seven-pointers — including three here — in the season.

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The biggest positive for Odisha — which has capable seamers like Basant Mohanty, Suryakant Pradhan and Debabrata Pradhan — has been its resurgence in batting. Batsmen like Shantanu Mishra, Debasish Samantray, Anurag Sarangi, Govinda Poddar and captain Subhanshu Senapati have gathered runs and confidence.

Even though one of its main weapons, speedster Rajesh Mohanty, was ruled out due to injury, Parida believed that others could do the job well enough.

The underdog tag may suit Odisha, which is determined to give Bengal run for its money.

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