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    Bengal ready for Odisha challenge under Shukla

    Kolkata: Defending champions Bengal will hope to come to terms with the absence of Sourav Ganguly as they face Odisha in the East Zone leg of the one-day tournament for the Vijay Hazare Trophy, beginning here Thursday.

    Having withdrawn from the IPL T20, the former India captain has called it quits from domestic cricket last year and Bengal will not get the service of the inspirational cricketer this time around.

    Ganguly had played a key role in Bengal's triumph last season and his absence will be felt as they will also not get the services of key players, Ashok Dinda and Manoj Tiwary, when the tournament gets into the business end.

    "We will definitely miss his services, but this will give the others a fine opportunity to cement their place," coach WV Raman said.

    Experienced allrounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla will lead the side. Offspinner Sourashish Lahiri, in fine form with the bat during local matches, may open the batting with Arindam Das, while Tiwary will lend solidity in the middle-order.

    Shami Ahmed, who will return Wednesday from his stint with the Board President's XI, will lead the pace attack with Dinda.

    Odisha will be led by Biplab Samantray and they boast of a fine pace attack with Basant Mohanty leading the pack. "They are the defending champions and will be a tough opposition. But anything can happen in one-day cricket," coach Debasis Mohanty said.

    The match will be played at the Jadavpur campus ground at Salt Lake while in another game, Assam will take on Tripura at the Eden Gardens.

    10 teams will advance to the knockouts from five zones, with six making the quarters directly. The four teams with the worst records will fight it out in the preliminary quarters with two winners qualifying for the last eight.

    The knockouts will begin from February 26 with the summit clash on March 3.