Rajkot: Saurashtra, led by Jaydev Unadkat and bolstered by the return of Cheteshwar Pujara, will start as favourites but a spiritely Bengal will know they have it in them to pull off an upset of sorts when the two sides clash in the Ranji Trophy final here on Monday.
Saurashtra beat Gujarat in a tense semifinal to reach here while Bengal stunned Karnataka in the last-four clash.
While Saurashtra reached their fourth final in eight seasons, Bengal have not won the competition since the 1989-90 when their head coach Arun Lal was part of the team.
The final at the SCA Stadium will see India Test players Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha add star power. Saha was named in the Bengal team for the summit clash. While Pujara was part of both India’s Tests in New Zealand, Saha saw Rishabh Pant selected over him, coming into this final.
Saurashtra skipper and seasoned pacer Unadkat has been in fine form and almost singlehandedly took them to the final with a seven-wicket haul in the semifinal, including the scalps of a set Parthiv Patel and Chiragh Gandhi, who had brought Gujarat back in the game from a hopeless 63 for five while chasing 327.
He has so far taken 65 wickets at an average of 12.17 and is three shy of the all-time record of 68 scalps, set by Bihar spinner Ashutosh Aman last season.
With the bat, Sheldon Jackson will be expected to play a big role besides Pujara who will be their mainstay.
For Bengal, their young pace attack led by promising India ‘A’ fast bowler Ishan Porel has done wonders. Mukesh Kumar and Akash Deep were on fire in the semifinal and has contributed significantly to the team’s success this term.
Left-arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed has also contributed with bat and ball and is the team’s joint highest wicket-taker with 30 scalps alongside Kumar and Akash Deep.
The responsibility as far as the batting unit is concerned will be on veteran Manoj Tiwary, who has been the team’s leading run-getter with 672 runs from 10 games, but has not fired after his couple of match-winning half-centuries on a challenging track in Patiala. Anustup Majumdar has been in a great form and will also look to continue his good run.
Saurashtra: Cheteshwar Pujara, Jaydev Unadkat (c), Chirag Jani, Kamlesh Makvana, Sheldon Jackson, Arpit Vasavada, Kushang Patel, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Avi Barot, Divyaraj Chauhan, Snell Patel, Vandit Jivrajani, Samarth Vyas, Prerak Mankad, Jay Chauhan, Harvik Desai (wk), Kishan Parmar, Vishvaraj Jadeja, Chetan Sakariya, Parth Bhut.
Bengal: Manoj Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha, Ashok Dinda, Shreevats Goswami, Anustup Majumdar, Arnab Nandi, Sudip Chatterjee, Abhimanyu Easwaran (c), Writtick Chatterjee, Koushik Ghosh, Mukesh Kumar, Sayan Ghosh, Ishan Porel, Nilkantha Das, Agniv Pan, Ayan Bhattacharjee, Abhishek Raman, Boddupalli Amit, Ritwik Chowdhury, Prayas Barman, Shahbaz Ahmed, Karan Lal, Akash Deep, Shreyan Chakraborty, Kazi Saifi, Ramesh Prasad.