Controversy took centre stage when these two sides met during the group phase of the Ranji Trophy. Railways captain Murali Kartik ‘Mankaded’ Bengal youngster Sandipan Das and a huge row broke out. Verbal volleys flew thick and fast from both camps and Bengal players refused to shake hands with their opponents.
Bengal and Railways are meeting once again in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals that starts at the Eden Gardens from Wednesday but the hosts maintain that it’s not going to be a grudge match for them. “You don’t grudge anyone in this game once you cross the boundary line. We’ve moved on from that incident in Delhi and our focus is solely on winning the match,” Bengal coach Ashok Malhotra told The Indian Express.
“That said, this is quarterfinal and we will definitely play hard. No quarter will be given and none will be asked for. But the group league match against Railways is history now and we are ready for a fresh challenge. I hope our opponents too will approach the game with a similar mindset,” he added.
Skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla concurred. “We don’t have to prove anything to anyone. We just want to win this game. This Bengal side is a very competitive unit. We’ve won outright against Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to qualify for the knockout stage. At the same time, we play cricket with dignity,” he said.
The coach and captain tried to play down the unsavoury incident. But there will be some underlying tension when both the sides meet. Bengal are really charged up after conceding the first innings lead in their previous encounter against the Railways.
Chin music could be the hosts’ answer. The onus is on Ashok Dinda to provide the fire power.
The 28-year-old fast-medium bowler — 29 wickets in seven matches — is ready to take the responsibility. “After a long time we are in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals and there’s no looking back from here. Our confidence level is very high and it’s a good thing that we will be playing on the same pitch where we had beaten Uttar Pradesh. Railways, too, will be tested with swing and bounce,” said Dinda on Monday.
He had a 10-wicket haul against Uttar Pradesh and wants to carry forward the momentum. But at the same time, he claims that revenge is not on his mind.
“We’ve completely forgotten our group league match against Railways. Now, the focus is on the next three matches, beginning with the quarterfinals,” he maintained. Gloveman Wriddhiman Saha also said he had “no ill-feelings” about his opponents.
What about Railways? Kartik was quoted as saying by a Bengali paper that winning the match would be the only motivation as he didn’t want to brood over something that had happened about two months ago. The left-arm spinner was jeered by the county fans in 2012 when he ‘Mankaded’ Somerset’s Alex Borrow while playing for Surrey. Surrey didn’t pick him next season. It would be interesting to see how he approaches the task in the quarter-finals. But out of their comfort zone, they will be underdogs in this game.
Tiwary ruled out
Manoj Tiwary, who was included as a provisional member has been ruled out as he hasn’t recovered fully from a knee injury that saw him miss the entire group league stage of the Ranji Trophy. The middle-order batsman had a fitness test at the NCA on Monday and was advised another couple of weeks of rest by the physio.