Mandeep Singh will step into an unfamiliar but exciting territory when he walks out for toss with Bengal skipper Manoj Tiwary at the PCA Stadium here. With a victory against Hyderabad this week, Punjab has made an ideal start even though it will be tested by an inspired Bengal in the Ranji Trophy contest beginning on Friday.
Punjab is a young side and the spirit is best reflected by the Kaul brothers, Uday and Siddarth.
Match to cherish
Five wickets for Siddarth and five victims for Uday became a match to cherish, for the two. Their success must have brought joy to Patiala-based father Tej, a former first-class cricketer and a hard task-master as a qualified coach.
Uday, 24, has been around for seven years and Siddarth, 22, for five. Cricket was in their blood and the opportunities were earned the hard way. “I always wanted to bowl fast,” said Siddarth. As for Uday, he loved to keep wickets. The two complement each other well. Siddarth looks for “on-field guidance” from his elder brother. Uday never misses a chance to “rectify” his exuberant younger brother’s errors.
“I quickly warn him when he becomes wayward in trying extra for a wicket. His strength is line and length,” said Uday. The energetic Siddarth admits he becomes “aggressive” sometimes but acknowledges the timely influence of Uday. The wicketkeeper is ever alert when the ball loses its shine, because that is when Siddarth assumes greater control and striking power.
Full of enthusiasm
Their untiring enthusiasm is an “asset” that Punjab coach Arun Sharma boasts of. “I saw potential very early in them. Siddarth knows his job well and Uday is amazingly committed. I would love to see him excel as a No. 3 batsman too.”
The platform to bat at No. 3 may come some time this season for Uday but Punjab would look forward to some healthy stuff from the talented Mandeep and the delightful opener Jiwanjot Singh.
Jiwanjit’s double century should attract attention from the Bengal camp where Ashok Dinda and Sourav Sarkar hold the key.
Bengal did well to garner three points against Rajasthan, with opener Subhomoy Das and Wriddhiman Saha producing critical knocks.
“We have to start afresh,” insisted Bengal coach W. V. Raman.
“We did well against the defending champion but we have to get over the ‘could have should have’ factor and look ahead. It is a long season and the teams are very competitive. We have to make the best of the conditions and not just sit and sulk.”
Raman wanted Bengal to ‘live in the moment’ and not worry about the next day.
“I expect Dinda to be the main strike bowler. The key lies in adapting to the conditions and see how the game develops. The beauty of the game lies in facing this intrigue.”