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Paul eyes 50 wickets

Calcutta, Nov. 29: His aggregate haul in a dozen Ranji Trophy matches prior to this season was 24 wickets, with a best of three for 30-odd. In three matches so far this season, he already has 23 victims in his kitty, and that includes three five-wicket hauls including a seven for 44. Meet Shib Sankar Paul, Bengal’s newest pace sensation.

“The build-up to the Ranji season this time was very elaborate. I played in three of the four tournaments CAB took part in and bagged about 30 wickets. That gave my confidence a big boost,” Paul said on Saturday, adding that he had worked harder than before at the pre-season camp.

The fact that both the coach (Karsan Ghavri) and his assistant (Satinder Singh) were seamers came in handy. “The coach backed me to the hilt and just advised me to make the batsmen play as much as possible. I’ve tried to do that and have been getting the results,” said Paul, adding that senior pro Utpal Chatterjee has also been providing lots of encouragement. Now that he has become the team’s bowling spearhead, almost overnight, won’t the pressure factor weigh him down' “Not at all… I am approaching every match as if it’s a fresh beginning. I don’t feel any pressure,” the six-foot-three pacer observed.

What’s his aim now' “At the start of the season, I wanted to become the best bowler in Ranji Trophy by taking at least 50 wickets. I’m nearly halfway there.”

The fact that he is a self-made cricketer, with his roots from Toofanganj in Cooch Behar district, makes the 24-year-old’s story even more sensational.

“I’ve been playing cricket in Toofanganj from a young age but didn’t have any formal coaching,” said Paul. “It was in 1996 that I first came to Calcutta to play club cricket (Kidderpore), thanks to the efforts of a North Bengal University professor.”

He spent two seasons with Shyambazar and one with Mohun Bagan before joining Eastern Railway. The Bengal break came in 1999-2000, and he has been a regular fixture in the squad since then.

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