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‘Bengal need an outright victory’

Calcutta: Ashok Malhotra feels Bengal need an outright victory in their remaining three matches in the group to make it to the knockout stage of the Ranji Trophy this season.

Bengal are placed fourth in group B, with 11 points from five matches.

“We need an outright victory… I’m happy with the way we are competing, but need few more points to make the quarters.

“Collectively we have done well, but individual brilliance is lacking… Except for Arindam Das no batsman has been performing creditably… It has taken a century from (Laxmi Ratan) Shukla and Sourashish (Lahiri) to keep us going. The middle-order is a concern… Anustup (Majumdar) and Subhomoy (Das) have been struggling,” Malhotra told The Telegraph on Monday.

Bengal next play Railways in New Delhi from Friday.

“From the next match, I will be missing three players… Manoj Tiwary is injured while Mohammed Shami and Wriddhiman Saha will be busy with national commitments. The situation is getting from bad to worse… There are limited players in hand… I’ll be missing the impact players,” he rued.

“I still have to depend on Shib Shankar Paul to get five wickets… The talent pool is in poor shape. We aren’t doing well at the Under-25 level… There aren’t any replacements.”

The Bengal coach, however, didn’t wish to comment on the way forward. “I’m not one to look into it… That is the coaching committee’s responsibility,” Malhotra said.

Malhotra is positive about Bengal’s chances in the remaining matches. “We’re trying, and hopefully there will be one great match for us… That will make things easier for us… The fact that teams like UP and Baroda are below us shows that we haven’t done too badly.

“The bowlers have done reasonably well on the flat wickets. But they have failed to finish it off… For example, Saurashtra were 23 for three in their second innings when Cheteshwar Pujara got out… But we still failed to pull it off... Perhaps we need some extra bit of luck.”

Malhotra’s presence in the dressing room has surely made a lot of difference to the team’s fortunes after the lacklustre performances during the last two seasons.

“We’re a happy bunch… From Day I, I’ve been stressing on the camaraderie and team spirit… That has really made the difference…

“We’re now desperate to make the quarters… From there on, we’ll have our full side and can beat any team,” he hoped.

Laxmi Ratan Shukla is now focusing on the Railways match and doesn’t wish to look too far ahead.

“We are only focusing on the match versus Railways and not thinking about the matches against Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. It will be a tough match…

“They are the in-form team in the group and we will have to play at our best,” said the Bengal captain.