The business end of the Ranji one-dayers begins on Friday with the semifinals. But the different nature of the pitches suggests they could be contrasting contests.
Bengal face Baroda at the Maharaja Bir Bikram Stadium where batsmen have struggled against spinners in the two games played so far. In the other contest at the Tripura Institute of Technology, the Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu bowlers will have their task cut out, as there have been some big scores, including two totals in excess of 300.
UP are set to field RP Singh, who missed the previous match due to a bout of facial allergy. Making way probably would be Shailendra Sengar.
Tamil Nadu are keeping their fingers crossed over injured wicketkeeper C Gopinath.
This is a shorter rerun of the season’s Ranji Trophy semi-final, where UP chased down 445, despite being 63-3, to win on the first innings lead.
Even without the services of Suresh Raina, who is in New Zealand, UP seem to hold the edge against Tamil Nadu, who are worse off in the absence of their "three pillars" Dinesh Karthik, Murali Vijay and Lakshmipathy Balaji, also on national duty.
This means more responsibility on S Badrinath and Abhinav Mukund. Though Balaji’s absence is difficult to make up, TN will have to make do with the bowling resources they have.
UP have found the right men at the right time on several occasions this season and the latest discovery is Ravikant Shukla, who provided stability, on a dodgy wicket, to the middle order in the quarterfinal against Himachal. With the return of R.P., their bowling too appears to have the right balance.
In the other tie, Baroda will be relying on left-arm spinners Rajesh Pawar and Swapnil Singh. Coach Paras Mhambrey said there was even a possibility of bringing in off-spinner Kamran Sheikh. Even in the absence of the Pathan brothers and Munaf Patel, the coach has a young and energetic bunch at his disposal.
Batting has been Bengal’s concern. Despite struggling with six specialist batsmen and two all-rounders against Delhi, captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla insisted there would be no changes in the batting order.