A young Bengal side will be running against the form and reputation of the last two season’s champion Rajasthan when the latest edition of the Ranji Trophy opens here at the Eden Gardens here on Friday.

With the selectors opting for fresh talent this season, the Bengal side — under its captain Manoj Tiwary — will be eager to prove its merit. On the other hand, Rajasthan will be looking at the experience of former India player Hrishikesh Kanitkar to lead the side to a positive start, thereby adding a lot of interest to the upcoming duel.

For Bengal this will also be the beginning of the time after its most charismatic cricketer Sourav Ganguly, who captained a lot many matches last season before opting out of the squad this time. “We have to be patient and handle the ups and downs that happen in the course of a four-day match,” said another former India batsman, W.V. Raman, who has been coaching Bengal for the last three seasons. The coach hoped that the team will show more aggression and unity to be more result oriented than last year. Bengal had last won the title way back in 1989-90.

Bengal will be joined by the three India ‘A’ campaigners — Manoj Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha and Ashok Dinda — on the day of the match. There is some fatigue worry about the players, who will be playing play back-to-back matches. “You have to pass through the grind when you are playing the modern-day format,” said Raman, looking to wave off the worry. Even Rajasthan will have the likes of Robin Bist and Ashok Menaria joining it on the day of the match.

Former South African international and Rajasthan’s bowling coach, Meyrick Pringle, said his side will be missing the experience of opener Akash Chopra, who has moved over to Himachal Pradesh this season. The coach hinted at the inclusion of young Ankit Lamba in the slot left vacant by Chopra’s departure. The visitor has good depth in its batting with the likes of Vineet Saxena, Kanitkar, Menaria and Robin Bist, who was the highest scorer last season.

Bengal was forced to announce late changes in its squad after two of its key batsmen Partha Sarathi Bhattacharjee and Rohan Banerjee were injured in the final day’s practice on Thursday. Arindam Ghosh and Debabrata Das come in as replacement in the squad of 15 previously announced.

The teams (from):

Bengal: Manoj Tiwary (capt), Arindam Ghosh, Debabrata Das, Joyjeet Basu, Writam Porel, Anushtup Majumdar, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Iresh Saxena, Ashok Dinda, Sourav Sarkar, Arnab Nandy, Veer Pratap Singh, Subhamoy Das and Aritra Chatterjee.

Rajasthan: Hrishikesh Kanitkar (capt), Vineet Saxena, Ankit Lamba, Robin Bist, Ashok Menaria, R.R. Parida, Puneet Yadav, Dishant Yagnik (wk), Pankaj Singh, Rituraj Singh, Aniket Choudhary, Madhur Khatri, Manjeet Singh, Viabhav Deshpande, Gajendra Singh.

Umpires: K. Hariharan (Del), N. Pathwardan (MP). Third umpire: K. Ananthapadmanabhan (Ker). Match referee: B. Kalyanasundaram (TN).

Match starts at 9 a.m.

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