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Bengal look to go the distance

G.S. Vivek

Posted: Mar 12, 2012 at 0120 hrs IST

New Delhi: When Bengal take on Mumbai in the final on Monday, Sourav Ganguly will be looking to set right an anomaly in his 22-year first-class career. One of India’s most successful captains, Ganguly has never led his state to any major title.

The Vijay Hazare Trophy has remained elusive for Bengal, who have lost the title match thrice in the last four years. Bengal coach WV Raman chuckles at that statistic — he coached Tamil Nadu in 2009 and 2010 when Bengal ended up second best, and will be keen to give one back to the side.

Raman will be pinning his hopes on Wriddhiman Saha, who is on a golden run with six consecutive half-centuries in the competition. One has to go back a long way to find a similar run, when Arun Lal scored four consecutive centuries in the Ranji Trophy, three decades back. Anustup Mazumdar, another copybook compact-looking batsman, will also be keen to contribute substantially, like he did in the longer format. With Sreevats Goswami in reasonable touch, Bengal bat deep.

Ganguly, desperate for runs (53 runs from five games, with highest of 24 in the semifinal) and seeking justification for playing the tournament as a warm-up to the IPL, will be relieved to bid adieu to Palam’s slow-low pitch and walk into the Ferozeshah Kotla.

Ajit Agarkar, Ganguly’s trusted bowling option in Team India, will be walking out with him for the toss. Agarkar too has a few points to prove, after being given the captaincy unexpectedly in the one-dayers, just like he was dropped from the squad in the longer version.

Mumbai too have failed to win silverware in two seasons and will bank on their strong record in finals across formats. Mumbai incidentally has won two finals against Bengal in the past, both in longer version, and will hoping for an encore.

Injury concerns

Doubts persist over Suryakumar Yadav’s availability due to an injured ankle but the rest of Mumbai batsmen have come good, with the opening pair of Wasim Jaffer and Ajinkya Rahane in prime form. The middle-order looks thin, with the onus on Abhishek Nayar to guide the side, but the depth in batting makes up for inexperience. Mumbai pacer Dhawal Kulkarni will be tested before any decision.

They, though, have the advantage of having already played twice on the Kotla square, winning both matches comfortably. The track, which offered seamers assistance in the first session during the early part of the tournament, has gone back to supporting batsmen and is expected to do the same in the final, with spinners likely to play a pivotal role.

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