|Anustup Majumdar and Ashok Malhotra, during a practice
session, on Wednesday. A Telegraph picture
Calcutta: In the last six seasons of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, the national one-day competition, Bengal have been winners once, runners-up thrice, once they were ousted from the semi-finals and once from the quarter finals. But if you think that to be a credit, think again, because there’s another side to the tale as well.
New coach, Ashok Malhotra, used a phrase on Wednesday which was interesting… According to Malhotra, it’s the “one-day hangover” which bears heavy on the batsmen thereby bringing about their downfall.
That therefore means that somehow, and unintentionally, Bengal’s good show in the one-dayers has indirectly affected their performance in the Ranji Trophy, the longer format.
Speaking after the season’s first practice session, which was held indoors, Malhotra said that talent is not an issue for the Bengal team, it’s the lack of runs which needs to be addressed. “There’s talent in this young team… There’s potential. That’s not the problem… The problem is that we are not being able to produce enough runs… You can also call it a one-day hangover. The players often get carried away.
“We have been getting 50s, but are failing to go beyond that. In other words, we need to push our batting averages from the 20s to the 40s… We have to score more runs, there’s no alternative,” Malhotra said.
Malhotra seemed to have enjoyed the session with the squad, which mostly comprises of youngsters. “It’s a learning process for both, myself and the players… I have been away from the Maidan for quite sometime and so I’m learning from them,” he said.
He also had words of encouragement for the players ahead of the Buchi Babu Invitational tournament as he said: “These matches will provide us with quality practice… Net sessions are no yardsticks. We need proper match practice. So these tournaments will help in toughening up the boys mentally… And if they do well, it will certainly help them make the cut for the Ranji Trophy.”
Known to be a hard-taskmaster, Malhotra once again made it clear that there’s no place for excuses during his reign.
When told that many players in the past have complained that they were not given a fair run in the team and were chopped off after one or two bad outings, Malhotra said: “Whenever and whatever opportunity you get, you will have to make use of that… There’s no point giving excuses. That a lot of things can be done in limited opportunities have been proved by players like Manoj Tiwary and Cheteshwar Pujara.”
Anustup Majumdar, who will captain the CAB XI in the Buchi Babu Invitational meet, felt that Malhotra would help bridge the gap between the juniors and seniors in the team. “This was just the first day under the new coach… So it’s too early to say anything…
“But new thoughts of the new coach were quite refreshing… There’s good co-operation in the team and I hope we will do well. The coach will help the players gel together and his man-management skills will be crucial,” he said.
Personally, the talented middle-order batsman, who has also represented India A, is fine-tuning his part-time leg-spin bowling. “I know that my bowling may be useful to the team… I’m practising my leg-spin and hope to pick up a few wickets in the upcoming matches,” Anustup said.
The squad will leave for Chennai on Saturday and their first match, against Karnataka, is on August 15.
Meanwhile, there are whispers within the CAB that Malhotra may invite one-time teammate Arun Lal for a motivational session with the Bengal boys. Also, the association is mulling to rope in Soumitra Chattopadhay, a psychologist, for a few session with the squad.