Vijay Hazare Trophy: Bengal’s last chance to leave a mark | Cricket News

KOLKATA: Although cricket has resumed after the pandemic, there’s little to cheer as far as the game in Bengal is concerned. The senior side put up a below-par show in the season-opening Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 meet failing to make the knockouts and no new cricketer from the state managed to bag an IPL contract in the player’s auction last week.
With the Indian team scheduled to feature in only six One-Day Internationals for the rest of this year (3 vs England next month, and 3 vs South Africa in September) and the T20 World Cup coming up later this year, the 50-over format is definitely not on the priority list of fans or administrators now. So although the 38-team Vijay Hazare Trophy (50-over) meet is unlikely to provide any immediate reward, it will be Bengal’s only hope to make a mark.
“As there won’t be any Ranji Trophy this year, Vijay Hazare will be our main target to achieve something this season,” Bengal skipper Anustup Majumdar said on Saturday.
Bengal will again get the ‘home’ advantage like that in the Mushtaq Ali tournament as they will be playing all their Elite Group E matches in the city, opening the campaign against Services at the Eden Gardens on Sunday.
Once again they are clubbed with sides which are not known as domestic powerhouses, but with little margin of errors in the shorter formats, Bengal will have to bring their top performance in each game. Only the toppers of the five Elite groups will make the knockouts, while two best second-placed Elite group finishers will join them in the quarters. The best third-placed team from the Elite groups will play the Plate group winners to earn the eight quarter final spot.
Bengal will look up to their batsmen to deliver the goods as it was the inconsistency of their batters that let them down in the previous tournament. With veteran Manoj Tiwary out with an injury, Bengal will need good starts from the bats of opener Abhimanyu Easwaran and experienced Sudip Chatterjee, both of whom are back in the fold, so that skipper Majumder-led middle-order can fire freely down the order.
While the batsmen will have their task cut out, it’s the bowlers who will again lead Bengal’s challenge with pacers Ishan Porel, Mukesh Kumar and Akash Deep doing the job well. However, the poor form of allrounder Shahbaz Ahmed will be a matter of worry as Bengal will look for a finisher in this format.
Feb 21: vs Services (Eden Gardens), Feb 23: vs Chandigarh (Eden Gardens), Feb 25: vs Saurashtra (JU campus), Feb 27: vs J&K (22 Yards), Mar 1: vs Haryana (Eden Gardens).

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