Calcutta: A sense of relief prevails over teams when they are back in their comfort zone. Surprisingly, it doesn't seem to be so as far as Bengal are concerned.
Everyone is keeping their fingers crossed ahead of their face-off against Gujarat, at the Eden from Saturday, after the thrashing against Punjab in Mohali. Batting is one area of concern for the hosts and is yet to be sorted out as the team management seems undecided on the final XI.
However, there shouldn't be too many problems for Bengal batsmen, given the inexperience of the Gujarat attack, which conceded 716 runs while defending as many as 600 against Saurashtra in their previous encounter. But the crux of the matter is, the Bengal top-order is short of both runs and confidence after repeated shoddy displays so far.
Besides, too many names for the top-three slots ' Parthasarathi Bhattacharjee, Subhamoy Das, Sreevats Goswami, Writam Porel and Avishek Jhunjhunwala ' only make the selection process complicated. If Bhattacharjee does play, he will open the innings in all likelihood with either Subhamoy or Sreevats… Else, it could be Subhamoy and Sreevats as the openers.
Given his experience and abilities as an off-spinner, albeit part-time, Jhunjhunwala may pip Porel for the No. 3 position. But, as chief selector Deep Dasgupta says, "Avishek, of course, is in contention. However, at this moment, we need to back the youngsters as well. "So, it wouldn't be fair to write off Writam for this game."
It's certainly high time for the batsmen to step up and deliver. But looking from another angle, their job could well become easier if the in-form Wriddhiman Saha is promoted up the order.
So far in the competition, the wicket-keeper-batsman's authoritative batting has enabled him garner 279 runs at an average of 69.75 when the rest of his teammates appeared soft targets.
Still, Bengal are in two minds over sending Saha up the order. "We first need to know whether Wriddhi himself is ready to take up such a responsibility," captain Manoj Tiwary said after Friday's training session at the Eden.
Saha, for his part, had already expressed his readiness to bat at any position for the cause of his team.
Moving on to the bowling aspect, Bengal, on paper, are certainly superior now that pacer Shami Ahmed too is back in contention. However, it needs to be mentioned that the likes of Ashok Dinda, Sourav Sarkar and Iresh Saxena are yet to strike on unresponsive pitches.
Rather, they were taken to the cleaners in Mohali when the wicket eased up from the second day. And going by the Eden track, which has been subjected to further pruning, the visiting team could well feel encouraged, especially with the likes of Parthiv Patel, Manpreet Juneja, Rujul Bhatt and Smit Patel ' all among runs.
Now if you look deep down, there seems to be battles within this battle.
Both Saha and Patel would like to outshine one another in their bid to stake claims for the second wicket-keeper's slot in Team India, while for Dinda, it's an opportunity to prove that he ought to be given a better treatment than the one meted out as a mere standby.
Bengal (from): Parthasarathi Bhattacharjee, Subhamoy Das, Sreevats Goswami, Manoj Tiwary, Anustup Majumdar, Wriddhiman Saha, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Iresh Saxena, Sourav Sarkar, Shami Ahmed, Ashok Dinda, Writam Porel, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Veer Pratap Singh
Gujarat (from): Smit Patel, Priyank Panchal, Niraj Patel, Parthiv Patel, Bhargav Merai, Manprit Juneja, Rujul Bhatt, Rakesh Dhruv, Mehul Patel, Venugopal Rao, Krushang Patel, Rush Kaleria, Salil Yadav, Avi Barot, Faizal Dudhat
Umpires: B.K. Ravi and K.N. Ananthapadmanabhan
Match referee: Feroz Ghayas
Match starts: 9 am