India and Bengal pacer Mohammed Shami. @ AFP
India and Bengal pacer Mohammed Shami. @ AFP

Kolkata: Australia-bound India pacer Mohammed Shami is yet to join the Bengal team ahead of its Ranji Trophy 2018-19 season match against Kerala beginning on Tuesday.

Shami had been cleared by the BCCI to play Bengal’s Ranji Trophy Elite Group B fixture against Kerala on condition that he would only bowl 15-17 overs per innings.

The pacer, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, was expected to join the side on Sunday but was conspicuous by his absence on the eve of the match. However, Bengal skipper Manoj Tiwary said that the India pacer had gone to his native and would join the side later on Monday.

“There’s a death in his family. He’s gone to attend that. Family is always first priority. He is coming this evening. I have no issues,” Tiwary said.

“I don’t think he has done it purposefully. There’s a reason behind it.”

Shami’s inclusion in the squad has revived Bengal’s hopes for season’s first win after they secured six points from two matches on basis of their first innings lead. The conditions are ideal for the pacers with a greentop on offer at the Eden Gardens.

“He is the number one Test bowler for India. He is such a quality that he would not have any issues [in straightway joining without practice],” Tiwary said.

Tiwary said it was Shami’s wish to play for Bengal before leaving for the gruelling Australia tour where India will play four Tests beginning December 6. “He was very keen about playing. He said he’s available for second match. Then we did the formalities [of seeking permission from BCCI].”

Tiwary added Bengal have plan B in place with the team boasting four other pacers in Ashok Dinda, Ishan Porel, Mukesh Kumar and uncapped Amit Kuila.

Bengal’s batting on the other hand will miss the services of promising opener Abhimanyu Easwaran who is on India A tour to New Zealand.

In his absence, last match centurion Koushik Ghosh is likely to be promoted while Sudip Chatterjee who’s battling for runs would come to his usual number three slot.

This will be for the first time the two teams will cross swords in the Ranji Trophy and Sachin Baby-led Kerala side are excited about it.

Kerala, who defeated Andhra in their last match, lead the group B table with seven points, followed by Bengal.

“Back home we played on a spinning track. It’s a new challenge for us. There’s a lot of grass on this wicket. We are really prepared to face the Bengal pace attack. We are excited to face Shami,” Baby said.

The match will pit Kerala’s strong batting against Bengal’s pace attack. Kerala have three batsmen who have scored centuries this season including the skipper.

Opener Jalaj Saxena, who scored 133 against Andhra, will look to give them a solid start while VA Jagadeesh will lend stability in the lower middle order.