Defending champions Gujarat will have their task cut out as they lock horns with a determined Bengal unit in what promises to be a keen quarterfinal contest in the Ranji Trophy starting in Jaipur on Thursday.
Gujarat cruised into the quarterfinals with five wins and a draw while amassing 34 points, the most by any team in the league stage.
Two-time winners Bengal too looked determined to win their first Ranji title since 1989-90 as they dished out some superb performance this season.
However, they were dealt a big blow with their dependable batsman Sudip Chatterjee being ruled out of the match due to fever.
In his place, Saurabh Singh has been drafted into the team and the 20-year-old will be eagar to fill in the shoes of Chatterjee and share the onus on Thursday.
Gujarat played just like the holders were expected to with last season’s top run-getter Priyank Panchal hitting peak form heading into the last-eight stage.
Panchal topped the scoring chart in the league stage with 538 runs in six matches.
Experienced Parthiv Patel, who has been named in the India squad for the South Africa tour, on the other hand, has tallied 313 runs in eight innings, of which 173 came against Rajasthan, and that could be an area of concern for Gujarat.
The wicket-keeper batsman had five double digit scores but failed to convert them. It will be his last competitive game before he heads to South Africa and the Gujarat skipper will be eagar to use the occasion to get a big one.
Veteran legspinner Piyush Chawla, with 31 wickets in five games, has led the Gujarat bowling admirably. 17-year-old left-arm spinner Siddharth Desai has also shown with the red cheery, and the spinners were well supported by medium pacers Chintan Gaja and Kamlesh Thakor.
Gujarat will take comfort from the fact that they have rarely felt the absence of premier bowlers such as Jasprit Bumrah, mostly busy doing national duty, Axar Patel and Rush Kalaria, who is nursing a shoulder injury.
As far as bengal are concerned, they made the final in 2005-06 and the following season, but fell short in the last hurdle. Under Manoj Tiwary’s leadership, the team would look to do one better this time around.
Though the likes of Ashok Dinda (30 wickets in six matches) and Mohammed Shami, now doing national duty, shown with the ball, Bengal’s strength certainly is their batting.
The onus will be on the likes of Abhishek Raman, Tiwary, Abhimanyu Easwaran and Saurabh to set up the game at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium against a team that is high on confidence.
Bengal: Manoj Tiwary (capt), Sudip Chatterjee, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Shreevats Goswami (wk), Anustup Majumdar, Abhishek Raman, Amir Gani, Pradipta Pramanik, Ashok Dinda, Ishan Porel, Mukesh Kumar, Kanishk Seth, B Amit, Ritwik Chowdhury, Saurabh Singh, Writtick Chatterjee.
Gujarat: Parthiv Patel (capt & wk), Rujul Bhatt, Samit Gohel, Manprit Juneja, Chirag Gandhi, Dhruv Raval, Mehul Patel, Priyank Panchal, Piyush Chawla, Hardik Patel, Bhargav Merai, Ishwar Chaudhary, Chintan Gaja, Kamlesh Thakor, Siddharth Desai.