Vijay Hazare Trophy: New-look Bengal face old coach Bahutule's Gujarat
KOLKATA: There have been a lot changes in the Bengal team set-up since a disappointing last season, with the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) taking some drastic steps in the hope of bringing about a change in fortunes.
For starters, coach Sairaj Bahutule was asked to leave and Arun Lal - who was roped in as mentor in the middle of last season - named coach and given a free hand to bring the house in order.
Interestingly, the two will sit in rival dressing rooms at the Jaipuria Vidhyalaya ground in Jaipur on Tuesday when Bengal open their campaign in the Vijay Hazare Trophy (50-over) Elite Group C with a match against Gujarat. Bahutule happens to be the Gujarat coach now.
Veteran Bengal opener Lal, a fighter on and off the field, believes that hard work is the only recipe for success. He has focused on fitness and the Bengal boys have, for the first time, undergone the yo-yo test. The tough task master has set a uniform performance index and non-performers will have to make way. Even veteran and proven warhorses like Manoj Tiwary and Ashok Dinda are not out of 'danger' zone.
Tiwary has lost the captaincy to Abhimanyu Easwaran this season but the young opener will be missing the first two Hazare matches as he will be playing for Board President's XI against the visiting South Africa side. In his absence, Sudip Chatterjee will be leading the side.
Bengal will also miss pacer Ishan Porel and Ritwik Roy Chowdhury in the first two matches. While Ishan is part of the Board President's XI squad, Ritwik is in the India U-23 side which is playing Bangladesh in a one-day series in Lucknow.
However, Bengal have been boosted by the arrival of Wriddhiman Saha, who has been allowed by the BCCI to play the first two games before joining the India squad for the Test series against South Africa.
Saha, keen to return to the national side, will surely be looking to grab all opportunities that come his way. His presence will also give Lal an option to fill the opener's slot in Easwaran's absence.
With Porel missing and there being some concern over Dinda's fitness - he is returning from a knee injury - Bengal's bowling looks a bit under-strength for the opener. Young Aakash Deep may get a look-in along with former Kolkata Knight Riders pacer Sayan Ghosh on Tuesday.
Bengal played a pre-season tournament in Jaipur just weeks back and know the conditions well. But it won't be easy against a strong Gujarat unit who had a good domestic season last time.