Cricketers have a shelf life. The empty stands at the Karnail Singh Stadium proved that despite Sourav Ganguly's decision to mark his return to the five-day format here on the first day of the Ranji Trophy tie against Railways on Wednesday.
About a decade ago, Ganguly had played to a packed stadium here. He was consolidating India then after the matchfixing scandal and scorching the offside with his silken shots..
On Wednesday, there was neither although Bengal needed that after Gitimoy Basu's (58) dismissal. All Ganguly did was scratch around for 13 in over 40 minutes. A straight four through a defensive push had some promise but he couldn't find the meat of the bat ever again. He got an inside edge and almost played on to his stumps off pacer Anureet Singh, who then had his man with a similar stroke but off a ball that stayed low.
Bengal's first innings ended at 201. It was like Ganguly's innings. There were just flashes of brilliance.
The batsmen were ruffled by the slow, low and slightly uneven wicket,which Railways used to great effect through their experienced bowling trio Murali Kartik, JP Yadav and Sanjay Bangar. Anureet finished with three wickets while JP Yadav and Murali Kartik took two apiece.
The morning session, however, belonged to Bengal. Railways coach, Abhay Sharma had mentioned the importance of winning the first session but his plans failed as Basu, standing in for regular wicketkeeper Sreevats Goswami who pulled out due to injury, made a solid start. Basu, playing just his second first-class match, had arrived with Ganguly only on Tuesday night.
Brief scores Bengal 201 (G Basu 58, M Tiwary 42, Anureet 3/48, JP Yadav 2/41, M Kartik 2/49)