Calcutta: A disappointing Ranji Trophy campaign seems to be a thing of the past for Bengal. As the defending Vijay Hazare Trophy champions begin their zonal campaign against Odisha on Thursday, there is a spring in their steps.
No over-confidence, no taking things for granted… Only a silent resolve to be successful, for the second time running. "Only when you remind yourself that you are the defending champions does it put you under pressure… But it happened a year ago. So the best thing is to forget about it and start afresh," said a pragmatic Woorkeri Raman.
The Bengal coach knows well that the task is not going to be easy. To start with, they will miss the experience of Sourav Ganguly, whose astute leadership and significant presence played a big role in their campaign last year.
The team, despite having a good mix of youth and experience, will have to do with the absence of some players. Both Manoj Tiwary and Ashok Dinda will be available for their opener at the Jadavpur University Campus ground, but the Ranji captain will miss the next two matches as he would be involved in the three-day match between India A and Australia.
Dinda, however, will be missed for the rest of the matches in the zonal leg because of his national commitments.
Another India player, pacer Shami Ahmed, will however be available after completing his Board President's XI duties against Australia.
For Tiwary, this tournament will be about reminding the national selectors once again about his capabilities. The Bengal coach is not thinking much about such issues, which are beyond his control, and is concentrating on the positives.
"We have got to resign to the fact that these things will be there… It can be a bit unsettling, but can't be helped. I only hope the youngsters make use of the available opportunities,' said Raman. The return of Sourasish Lahiri ' who is expected to open the batting with Arindam Das ' will come in handy as his all-round abilities will be of immense help in this format. So will be the experience of Laxmi Ratan Shukla, who will lead Bengal in the tournament.
Shukla had played a big role in Bengal's successful campaign last season and will need to do an encore if they harbour hopes of a super show this time as well.
Odisha, on the other hand, are aware of the huge task on hand. "Any opponent is tough… We need to play well and we expect to put up a tough fight," said coach Debashish Mohanty.
"Bengal have a few experienced players and it counts… Playing against them anywhere isn't easy."
The pitch has some grass which might work to the advantage for the likes of Dinda and Shami. But it remains to be seen how much of the grass is retained till Thursday morning.
Odisha (from): Biplab Samantray (captain), Basant Mohanty, Alok Mangaraj, Lagnajit Samal, Deepak Behera, Jayanta Behera, Niranjan Behera, Halhadar Das, Rakesh Mohanty, Natraj Behera, Bibhudutta Panda, Paresh Patel, Govind Poddar, Subhrajit Sahoo, Arabinda Singh, Ankit Yadav
Umpires: P Jayapaul and NRS Prabhu.
Match Referee: GA Pratap Kumar
Match starts: 9 am.
Related reports: Page 16