Kolkata: A determined Bengal will look to end a 22-year-long title drought when they begin their Ranji Trophy campaign against two-time defending champions Rajasthan at home on Friday.
In the post Sourav Ganguly-era, Bengal cricket has made progress, but the premier domestic title has remained elusive to them. Bengal won the last Ranji Trophy title in the 1989-90 season, which also marked former India captain Ganguly's debut.
Under WV Raman, who joined the side in 2010-11, the state has won the domestic Twenty20 (Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy) and one-dayers (Vijay Hazare Trophy) last season, but their ultimate goal certainly would be to break the Ranji Trophy jinx.
The side boasts of some big names in skipper Manoj Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha, Ashok Dinda, Anustup Majumdar and Mohammad Shami, all of whom are in the reckoning at national level, and the run to the title doesn't seem to be an improbable preposition for them.
"I would be happy if Bengal raise their game. I want them to be united, play together, be positive and show aggression without any baggage," was coach Raman's mantra for his Bengal wards.
At Ranji level Bengal has not been able to click as a team and in the absence of Ganguly, who decided to quit from all forms of the game before the declaration of the squad, it remains to be seen how they conduct themselves.
"We are confident of our youngsters. We strongly hope that there would not be a situation for us to ask for Ganguly's help," Raman said.
The Ranji Trophy this season will also embrace a re-jigged format where there's no plate or elite division, but the teams are divided into three groups. Bengal find themselves clubbed with Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Mumbai, Saurashtra, Hyderabad and Railways in Group A.
"It's a competitive group and we may have to play one or two extra matches. It might be a bit tricky with the presence of different types of teams so we can't afford to drop our guard," Raman said.
The hosts unlike last season have not opted for a green top, but the Eden strip has some patches of grass that might assist the seamers early on. The presence of some grass patches also indicate that the team might play three seamers in their ranks along side one spinner.
Meanwhile, Tiwary, Saha and Dinda apart from Rajasthan's Robin Bist and Ashok Maneria will join their respective sides on the day of the match as they are currently playing for India 'A' against visiting England side in Mumbai.
Hrishikesh Kanitkar-led Rajasthan will on the other hand will look to play as a unit even as the champions will be without star opener Aakash Chopra, who decided to leave the western state for Himachal Pradesh, and medium-pacer Sumit Mathur in their side.
"Of course, Chopra's experience will always be a huge factor. But we hope to start well," Rajasthan's bowling coach Meyrick Pringle said.