|Laxmi Ratan Shukla
Calcutta: Some things happen only in India. Otherwise, how would you explain the fact that the best all-rounder in the country, according to none other than the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), is not even in the remotest scheme of things as far as the national team is concerned.
Laxmi Ratan Shukla will be receiving the Lala Amarnath Award for the best all-rounder in domestic limited-overs format for the 2011-12 season, the first time that he will be receiving an award from the Board.
But that will not come into consideration when the national selectors pull their hair off in search of an all-rounder for Team India. Why? That’s an absurd question if you are aware of Indian cricket.
Shukla, once considered a talented all-rounder, has played just three ODIs for India. But his last International match was 13 years back, in 1999. In the last few years, Shukla has been in stunning form, especially in the limited-overs format. That Bengal have established themselves as one of the best teams in the domestic limited overs format — they won the 2010-11 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the 2011-12 Vijay Hazare Trophy — is mostly because of Shukla’s match-winning acts.
In Shukla’s support are the statistics. The all-rounder scored 291 runs and was the joint highest wicket-taker with 11 scalps in last season’s Vijay Hazare Trophy.
In fact, it was because of his unbeaten 106 in the final that helped Bengal win the competition. And to be honest, Shukla’s record in the Ranji Trophy, has been impressive as well.
So why is the 31-year-old not considered by the national selectors? Shukla, at least, does not know the answer. And so even the happiness of being adjudged the best is not enough to wipe away his disappointment. “It is a real honour for me. I appreciate the fact that the Board has recognised my hard work. But at times, I feel sad that I didn’t get a second chance in the national team...
“But then, selection is not in my hands. Playing for Bengal is the greatest motivation for me and I hope to keep performing for the side,” Shukla told The Telegraph on Wednesday.
But instead of pondering on what went wrong in the past, Shukla prefers to work on making the future perfect. “I believe I played good cricket for the last two seasons… But I don’t sit on the past... I want to concentrate on the upcoming season...
“It will be a really important season for us. We have to prove that our success in the last two seasons was not a fluke. All the players, especially (Ashok) Dinda, Manoj (Tiwary) and Wriddhiman (Saha) are in good shape,” Shukla said.
There’s one man to whom Shukla would like to say a big ‘thank you’ — Woorkeri Raman, the Bengal coach. “I was struggling with my form two years ago… I was low on confidence. But Raman Sir encouraged me… He helped me with my technique, both in bowling and batting.
“He asked me to concentrate on my line and length and react as to how the batsmen are playing… While batting, he asked me to play freely and not worry about the situation that we are in,” he said.
Expressing his gratitude, Shukla said: “I credit Raman for my, as well as Bengal’s, success… He has really inspired us to do well. I also want to thank my family for their support.”
Lakshmipathy Balaji gets rewarded for his domestic success with a central contract. But Laxmi Ratan Shukla remains in the shadow. Some things happen only in India…