Host Bengal would be banking on some recently-gained form to get past Railways in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal beginning at the Eden Gardens on Wednesday.
Bengal, which stumbled into the knockouts after two unexpected wins near the conclusion of the league stage, is buoyant about its chances, having reached the last-eight after a gap of four seasons.
The team, led by Laxmi Ratan Shukla, had conceded the first innings lead in a drawn encounter against Railways in Delhi barely a month ago. The match witnessed a bout of ill-temper, sparked by a ‘Mankading’ incident. Both sides sought to put it behind as a “minor incident” and focused on “good spirits” ahead of the crucial encounter.
“We are peaking at the right time and are just three matches away from the title,” said coach Ashok Malhotra, seeking to reignite memories of 1989-90 when Bengal triumphed. The two-time champion has made the finals twice in the new millennium.
Bengal, strengthened by the inclusion of Wriddhiman Saha, will miss former skipper Manoj Tiwary, who is recovering from a knee surgery. Pace spearhead Mohammed Shami is away on National duty.
While Bengal seems to rely more on sentiment, Railways looks back on a consistent record. It had played in the semifinals last season and reached the quarterfinals in 2010-11. Having topped its group in the current season, it will be the more composed side.
Skipper Kartik Murali, who has a wealth of international experience, would be looking to repeat the dominance his team had shown in the league stage.
The teams (from): Bengal: Laxmi Ratan Shukla (capt.), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Arindam Das, Sudip Chatterjee, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Subhomoy Das, Arnab Nandi, Sourav Sarkar, Saurasish Lahiri, Shib Shankar Paul, Ashoke Dinda, Kaushik Ghosh, Iresh Saxena, Sourav Mondal, Writtick Chatterjee, Gitimoy Basu.
Railways: Kartik Murali (capt.), Mahesh Rawat (wk), Harshad Rawle, Shivakant Shukla, Nitin Bhille, Rongsen Jonathan, Arindam Ghosh, Ashis Yadav, Karn Sharma, Anureet Singh, Krishnakant Upadhyay, Hardik Rathod, Ranjit Mali, Amit Paunikar, Shailendra Gehlot.