Calcutta/Indore: As if an away tie was not enough high a hurdle, Bengal will have to do without the services of their two most successful players when they take on Madhya Pradesh, in a Ranji Trophy Group A match, beginning Saturday.
Manoj Tiwary, the captain, and Ashok Dinda, undoubtedly the best bowler in the side, will not be there to help Bengal overcome the MP challenge. While Manoj has been undone by a right hand injury, Dinda is warming the Team India reserve bench in Mumbai.
Dinda's unavailability was anticipated, but Manoj's absence came as a surprise on the eve of the match.
The batsman, who starred with a 191-run knock in Bengal's last match, against Gujarat, has travelled with the team to Indore. But the bad news on Friday evening was that he, in all probability, will not play the match as he has a wrist and finger injury on his right hand, which he had picked up on the last day of the Gujarat tie, at the Eden.
Team manager Samir Dasgupta confirmed the development, saying: "Manoj went for a check up after practice today… The doctor has advised rest and has warned that it can be aggravated if he takes the risk of playing. So he won't be playing. Dinda, too, will be missing the match"
Not only is more than half of the Ranji season left, Manoj, who has been a part of the Indian limited overs squad for the year or so, will not like to miss the busy international schedule the Mahendra Singh Dhonis have this season.
All-rounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla, who will have to shoulder a much bigger responsibility in the absence of the two key players, reiterated the point that the duo's absence will make things harder. "Without the two, it will be a difficult job for us… We will have to work harder in this match," he said from Indore.
While Wriddhiman Saha will be the captain for this match, Anustup Majumdar will be his deputy.
Dinda's place will straightaway go to Veer Pratap Singh, but it's unclear who will come in for Manoj. One understands that Avisekh Jhunjhunwala, Debabrata Das and Writam Porel are in the fray, with Jhunjhunwala, being the front-runner because of his experience.
To put it simply, the match will be a contest between a depleted Bengal bowling attack and Madhya Pradesh's batting prowess.
That Bengal's bowling attack, without Dinda, will be much weakened, is a fact. Sourav Sarkar, Shami Ahmed and Veer Pratap are all able bowlers, but if they fail to handle the pressures of an away match, not much can be expected of them. Playing at Eden, their home, the Bengal bowlers had failed to get rid of the Gujarat tail, thereby missing the chance of registering a victory.
To Bengal's advantage, however, should be the pitch, which has a greenish tinge. Lying fourth in the Group A table with just 6 points from three matches ' leaders Punjab have 17 from as many matches ' the Bengal bowlers will have to bowl their heart out to get a favourable result. MP are one of the weaker sides in the group and a slip against them will mean that the next match, against Mumbai, will be a tall order, Everest-like in proportion.
The batting too will be a worry, with Manoj's assurance in the middle being absent. But even then, one has to say that the remaining batsmen have the ability to fill up the void left by Manoj. Wrddhiman and Laxmi Ratan will no doubt be the key players, but so will be the others.
MP, on the other hand, have only been good in patches. Though, their batsmen have performed reasonably well , they have failed to fire as a team. Devendra Bundela's boys will be eager to shed their inconsistency. Bengal have a somewhat similar aim.