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Mukesh, Kazi a boost for Bengal in Ranji quarterfinals against Jharkhand

30th January 2023
Boosted by the inclusion of talented young batsman Kazi Junaid Saifi and pacer Mukesh Kumar, a jubilant Bengal team will aim to go all guns blazing to seal a place in the last four when they take on Jharkhand in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals at the Eden Gardens starting on Tuesday.
The Laxmi Ratan Shukla-coached side will have their confidence sky-high after finishing on top of Group A.
Although their six-match unbeaten run in the campaign came to an end after loss to Odisha in their last group match, the home side will take a lot of positives going into the last-eight clash, having won four, drawn two and lost just one so far.
Come Tuesday, the Manoj Tiwary-led side will receive a big boost at the top of the batting order with in-form batter Kazi making his way into the team.
The 24-year-old has been in sublime form for Bengal Under-25 team recently.
With Kazi and Abimanyu Easwaran at the top, Jharkhand bowlers will surely have a lot of homework to do.
Sudip Kumar Gharami, who has also been in fine form, will aim to make it count in the knockouts.
The middle order will once again rely heavily on the experienced duo of Anustup Majumdar and captain Manni.
While all-rounder Shahbaz Ahmed, coming into the side after serving national duty, will look to deliver both with bat and ball.
The pace bowling department will be bolstered with the arrival of Mukesh Kumar, who missed the Odisha clash due to national commitment.
He will fly back to Kolkata on Monday evening after being released from India squad for the New Zealand T20Is.
Besides Mukesh, the in-form Akash Deep and Ishan Porel will also look to add more scalps to their name.
Interestingly, the last time these two teams met in Ranji Trophy was in the quarterfinals last season. Bengal posted a mammoth 773/7 decl. to win the match, thanks to first innings lead.
Speaking on the match, Bengal head coach Laxmi Ratan Shukla said, "All players are highly motivated and raring to go. Our aim will be to get a good start on Day 1, then we will plan further. Playing for Bengal is a passion for us, so the players will be giving their best on the day."
Skipper Manni also sounded optimistic of his team's chances.
"Preparations has been spot on. Now it's about executing them on the field. All departments from batting to bowling and fielding are covered and looks in good rhythm, so we are confident as a group," Manoj said.
On the other hand, Jharkhand, who finished runners-up in Group C with three wins and two losses, will have revenge in their mind.
The Virat Singh-led side will bank on their experienced duo of Saurabh Tiwary and Shahbaz Nadeem.
"We have been doing well this season and we hope to continue that in the quarters as well. Last time we met Bengal, it was a tough match and we lost. So it will be revenge time for us and we will give our best," Virat said.

Arindam Basu