WV Raman. (TOI Photo)KOLKATA: Bengal's pre-season practice got its full flavour with the team's new batting consultant WV Raman joining the boys on Wednesday. The former Bengal coach met the players along with all the support staff at the Pankaj Gupta Indoor facilities during their practice session. Raman will work with the boys for the next one week of his stay in the city.
However, both Raman and new coach Laxmi Ratan Shukla should expect the side to go the distance in the upcoming domestic season after the schedule was announced by the BCCI on Monday. Placed in Elite Group A, Bengal have been clubbed with Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Himachal, Baroda, Odisha and Nagaland in the upcoming Ranji meet. Going by the teams' strengths and past performances in their group, Bengal should fancy their chances of making the quarterfinals by finishing as one of the top two sides from this pool. With the home and away format returning this year, Bengal will get home advantage in a few games too.
However, the side will open the upcoming domestic season just after the Durga Puja with the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 meet from October 11. Placed in Group E, Bengal will have to play six games, instead of seven as is the case with eight-team groups A, B and C. Bengal, however, will expect some challenges from Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand in the group which also features Chattisgarh, Odisha, Chandigarh and Sikkim. In spite of being an unpredictable format, Bengal will look to top the group in order to directly qualify for the quarters. Otherwise they need to finish second best to make the pre-quarters stage.
The team will need to shift gear quickly as the T20 meet will be followed by the One-day format in Vijay Hazare Trophy which will commence from November 12. In the Vijay Hazare too, Bengal are placed in a seven-team group and will play Maharashtra, Services, Pondicherry, Railways, Mumbai and Mizoram. While Mumbai will be the toughest opposition in their Group E, Maharashtra and Railways can also put up a good challenge. Here too, Shukla's boys can make the quarters directly by topping the group while a second-place finish will ensure a pre-quarters berth.
No Namibia tour
Bengal's pre-season preparation suffered a setback when the BCCI red-flagged the Cricket Association of Bengal's plan to play in a Global T20 tournament in Namibia in September. It was strange that CAB went on to announce a Bengal squad for the four-team tournament without taking permission from the parent body first. It remains to be seen whether CAB now decides on playing any other pre-season tournaments.
SYED MUSHTAQ ALI
Group E: Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Odisha, Chandigarh, Sikkim
Group E: Maharashtra, Services, Bengal, Pondicherry, Railways, Mumbai, Mizoram
Elite A: Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Himachal, Baroda, Odisha, Nagaland