Calcutta: Laxmi Ratan Shukla wanted his team to start the knockout stage of the Vijay Hazare Trophy afresh. Well, the Bengal players responded to their captain’s call with a thumping 10-wicket victory over Karnataka, in Visakhapatnam, on Thursday.
Batting, which had been a problem area for Bengal in the zonal leg of the tournament, turned out to be in pink of health as openers Sreevats Goswami and Wriddhiman Saha remained undefeated. The bowling department excelled with Shami Ahmed and the young Veer Pratap Singh taking three wickets each.
Invited to bat first, Karnataka were bowled out for a paltry 127 in 32.1 overs. But the pitch is not to be blamed for the collapse as it were the Bengal bowlers who did the damage.
While chasing, the Bengal batsmen didn’t blink. They reached the target without losing a single wicket
If you consider the fact that Karnataka had players like Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Stuart Binny, Abhimanyu Mithun and Ranganath Vinay Kumar in their ranks, Bengal’s job is all the more creditable.
Sreevats Goswami (70 not out) and Wriddhiman Saha (52 not out) ensured that the chase was safe.
So what has brought about the change? Shukla thinks everything just fell into the right place.
“It’s not that there was a big change in the way we played… We struggled a bit in the zonal leg because our batting was not clicking…
“But that’s past and as I always say, past is not to be pondered upon. We needed to do well and we did that today… We executed our plans perfectly... Now we will concentrate on the next match,” Shukla said.
“We played very well today… Exceptionally well… We did what was required of us, implemented the plans properly and thus we won,” the captain added.
Defending champions Bengal had a mighty scare in the zonal leg a few days back. They had even lost to Tripura and had to win their last match, against Assam, to ensure that they made the knockout round.
So Thursday’s performance was definitely a huge improvement.
It were the bowlers who laid the platform by restricting Karnataka to just 127. Shukla was obviously happy with the effort put in by the Shami Ahmeds.
“The bowlers gave us a great start… There are so many good players, both in batting and bowling, in the Karnataka team.
“It was no way an easy job. Shami and Veer Pratap bowled their hearts out,” Shukla, who himself took two wickets, said.
Shukla made it clear that there was no devil in the pitch which could be blamed for Karnataka’s collapse. “There was some help for the bowlers initially… But nothing unusual… Overall, it was quite a sporting wicket,” Shukla said.
Bengal will meet Gautam Gambhir’s Delhi in the semi-finals. But despite Thursday’s big victory, Shukla is not over-confident. On the contrary, he reminded that Delhi are a very competitive side. “Delhi are a very strong side… There’s no question of taking them lightly.”
Young Veer Pratap echoed his captain as he said that they did not do anything differently on Thursday. “Yeah, it’s true that we were not very smooth in the zonal leg… “But that’s because we were not being able to implement our plans in batting… Today, our batsmen clicked and that thus made all the difference,” he said.
He, however, agreed that the focus of the team was much better. “Our focus was spot on… We knew what we were doing,” he said.
Asked how much help he got from the pitch, the pacer counter questioned: “If you say Karnataka were bowled out cheaply because of the wicket, that would be incorrect. Our batsmen played on the same pitch and remained undefeated. So…”
The bowler in Veer Pratap declared proudly: “We bowled well and that’s the reason they were out for 127… Not because of the pitch.”
With Delhi up next, in the semi-finals, such confidence will certainly come in handy.