Ganguly to appear for Bengal in Ranji match against Gujarat

Kolkata: Retired India skipper Sourav Ganguly would look to revive the glorious past of Bengal when they begin their Ranji Trophy Super League campaign at home against Gujarat Thursday.

Known to be the face of East Zone, Bengal`s record at the Ranji Trophy has been pathetic in the last few seasons.

The two-time Ranji winners reached the final way back in 2006-07 under coach Paras Mhambrey, but after his exit that co-incided with a few in-form players` exodus to the rebel Indian Cricket League, Bengal lost in transition.

There had been experiment with coaches (Bharat Arun, Mohinder Amarnath) and captains alike at the top, but Bengal struggled to hit a purple patch at the highest level of domestic cricket, something that has been tormenting the cricket bosses of this zone.

Last season was no different.

Bengal finished a disappointing sixth in their group with 12 points from seven matches that saw them concede a first innings lead to lowly Assam.

Winning the domestic Twenty20 tournament for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy was the only solace for Bengal who have set a high goal under coach and former India left-hander W V Raman this time.

Inconsistency in batting had been Bengal`s main let-down and the hosts will look to start well against the Parthiv Patel-led side.

Ganguly contributed little to Bengal`s cause in his two match appearances, scoring just 20 runs and it remains to be seen how the state benefits from the 39-year-old retired India batsman, even as his inspirational presence is sure to motivate Manoj Tiwary and Co in the dressing room.

The former India skipper, who is now busy with commentary assignments, has assured the Bengal selectors that he would be available for the entire season, something that would also give match practice to the Pune Warriors cricketer before the Indian Premier League tournament.

Skipper Tiwary will once again be the most vital cog in their wheel with better international exposure.

Promising wicketkeeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha will be the one to watch out for, while all-rounder and former skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla, who hit a 250 last season, will form Bengal`s batting mainstay along with Ganguly.

Bengal are likely to open with Arindam Das and Parthasarathi Bhattacharya, who is likely to be handed a Ranji debut.

Ranadeb Bose and Ashok Dinda will spearhead the pace attack, while off-spinner Saurashish Lahiri and leggie Iresh Saxena will form the core of spin attack.

Tiwary said, "We have to focus on the process first because that`s the key to get results. Our aim will be on clinching three points first."

Bengal have been clubbed with Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Baroda in group B and with four home matches out of six, the team would look to notch up maximum in their backyard.

With the Eden track that was termed `ugly` by India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni a bit on the slower side, Tiwary said a tinge of grass would have bound the wicket.

"Pitch as usual on the slower side, but a tinge of grass may bind the wicket. Home advantage is with us since we know the track better," Tiwary said.

Bengal will also have a psychological edge of getting three points against the same team in their last season`s meeting.

Gujarat finished ahead of Bengal in last Ranji season and they would look to tread ways with caution before capitalizing on the situation.

"The pitch is similar to the one used during the ODI here. It seems a bit slow. Still we do hope it will get better tomorrow morning," Parthiv said.

"All that we must ensure is playing good, consistent cricket for all four days. We have quite a few fresh faces in the side. Hope they come good."

He further added that they would be watchful of Ganguly`s presence in the opponents` camp.

"With Ganguly featuring in this game, it will be a good experience though he is in the opposition camp. We may go in with two spinners but a final decision will be taken in the morning," said Parthiv.

Teams from Bengal: Manoj Tiwary (c), Wriddhiman Saha (vc & wk), Sourav Ganguly, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Arindam Das, Rohan Banerjee, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Arindam Ghosh, Partha Sarathi Bhattacharjee, Ranadeb Bose, Ashok Dinda, Mohammad Sami Ahmed, Saurashish Lahiri, Iresh Saxena, Writam Porel, Anirban Gupta.

Gujarat: Parthiv Patel (c), Niraj Patel, Bhavik Thakar, Priyank Panchal, Rajdeep Darbar (wk), Amit Singh, Ishwar Chaudhary, Rikin Chauhan, Salil Yadav, Rujul Bhatt, Sunny Patel, Prathmesh Parmar, Mehul Patel, Jayesh Makla, Faizal Dudhat.

PTI