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Captain Shukla gets flak

Calcutta: The post-mortem started within an hour and a half of the innings defeat against Uttar Pradesh at the Eden on Wednesday. The selectors had a stormy meeting with captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla and coach Bharat Arun.

Shukla was castigated by chief selector Arup Bhattacharjee on two counts: poor leadership and backing Sourashish Lahiri. The off-spinner had a miserable match after getting the nod ahead of Ashok Dinda in the XI. The meeting lasted over 90 minutes.

Sourashish had to pay for failure: the selectors dropped him from the squad of XVI for the must-win match against Andhra Pradesh starting at the Eden on Tuesday. It will be pruned to 14 on Sunday. Middle-order batsman Arindam Ghosh, off-spinning allrounder Sougata Datta and left-arm spinner Iresh Saxena have been drafted in.

Shukla put up a brave front saying that the team had the confidence to win its last match and remain in the Super League. “We have failed in every department of the game.. Everyone has been trying his best but we’re failing to get our act right.

“There will be pressure on us to perform. Let’s see what happens. I’m sure we will not be relegated,” said the captain.

Arun was more pragmatic. “We have to be optimistic and show character,” he said. “We failed to come good in any department against Uttar Pradesh. We couldn’t bat a full day. It has been a terrible two games (the first being versus Orissa) for us. For some reason, the potential and the performance of the side are not matching.”

Shukla said the absence of Deep Dasgupta, Rohan Gavaskar and Abhishek Jhunjhunwala made no difference but Arun didn’t agree. “The transition from the junior to the Ranji level is akin to a shift from the Ranji to the international level. It’s not a question of the players not taking responsibility. The mindset of the juniors has to change. The ability to deal with pressure will be of utmost importance,” the coach said.

So what will his message be to the team? “Stay cool. The thought of winning has got to be in the mind. It will be important to believe that we can do it as a team.”

Uttar Pradesh captain Mohammed Kaif was elated. “This match was crucial for us as we badly needed a win. All our plans clicked in the match.

“We still have one more game to go and have got the momentum. Beating Bengal in an away tie inside three days has given us the confidence to beat any team.

“It was not the wicket but how we played that made the difference. The conditions suited us till lunch on Day I, but we got them out below 200 on Day III too,” Kaif said.

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