New Delhi: The Bengal team under Laxmi Ratan Shukla will aim to put up a dominant performance against an upbeat Services team, when the two sides will square up for their fifth round Group B Ranji Trophy encounter at the Airforce ground in Palam from Thursday.
Bengal are currently placed fifth in the table with eight points from four games, while Services, who got their first three points against Madhya Pradesh in the last round, are seventh in the nine-team table with five points in their kitty.
On paper, Bengal look a more formidable side with a lot of first-class experience in Shukla, who will be playing his 100th Ranji Trophy game. Not to forget India's reserve Test wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha and pacer Ashoke Dinda, who has been a fringe India player for quite some years.
For Services, their main batsman is veteran Yashpal Singh while allrounder Rajat Palliwal has recently played for India A against the West Indies. Their strike bowler is pacer Suraj Yadav who provided some major breakthroughs in the last game.
However, it won't be a very easy job to get past a Services side that reached the semi-finals last year and was good enough to snatch three points from a very solid MP side in their previous game.
"We can't take Services lightly as we conceded three points against MP and they got three against the same side. Our problem has been that no one is getting a big score although we are getting partnerships. The absence of Manoj Tiwary (recuperating from knee surgery) and Mohammed Shami (on national duty) has affected the balance of the side," coach Ashok Malhotra said after the training session.
The pitch at the Palam A ground is low and slow in nature and that's the reason why Iresh Saxena has been added in the 12-member squad for Thursday's encounter.
It will be interesting to see whether Bengal pick Saxena in their playing XI at the expense of Sourav Sarkar as Dinda, Shib Shankar Paul and Shukla are their to handle seam department. Sandipan Das is the back-up seamer.
Shukla, who is the first cricketer from Bengal to play 100 Ranji Trophy matches, is more concerned about playing good cricket.
"These are milestones which don't really bother me now. The aim is to not get distracted by numbers and figures and concentrate on playing a good match. Yes, this is my 100th Ranji match for Bengal and I am proud. But that's it," Shukla said in a very matter-of-fact manner after taking throwdowns at the nets.
Dinda had severe toothache but the team manager Atanu Ghosh informed that he is almost certain to play.