Vadodara: An upbeat Bengal side led by their gutsy captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla will start as favourites in the Ranji Trophy opener against Baroda, who would be without the services of their batting mainstay Ambati Rayudu, out with a hip injury.
Although Baroda are playing a home match, the team is not in a good position with Rayudu out of equation and their long standing captain Yusuf Pathan sacked after not guiding the state to the knock-outs of the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
The senior Pathan has made way for young opener Aditya Waghmode, who would be leading the side. Even there are no updates as to when Irfan Pathan will get fit.
Bengal, on the otherhand, played in the semi-finals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy and five of its members were a part of the Deodhar Trophy triumph.
With an in-form Manoj Tiwary, who has scored two centuries and three half-centuries in his last three innings, will be aiming to prove a point to the selectors, keeping World Cup in mind.
For Bengal, right-hand batsman Subhajit Banerjee, who impressed with his cameos in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, will be making his first-class debut.
"I still can't digest our loss against Karnataka in the Vijay Hazare Trophy semi-final. We lost during the last 12 balls. I have told boys that if you are wearing the Bengal cap, you have got to give your hundred percent," skipper Shukla said ahead of the match.
Will Rayudu's absence be an advantage, Shukla said,"We are not bothered about anyone's presence or absence. We have to play our game."
Bengal will be playing with two seamers in Ashok Dinda and Veer Pratap Singh along with two specialist spinners in Saurashish Lahiri and Iresh Saxena.
"The pitch is such that we can't play three seamers," said Shukla, which effectively means that Shib Shankar Paul and Sourav Sarkar will have to warm benches.
For Baroda, their left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt will also not be seen in action and the bowling will be spearheaded by India discard Munaf Patel.