Calcutta: Sourasish Lahiri wasn’t a regular in the Bengal Ranji Trophy side for the last couple of seasons. The arrival of Ashok Malhotra and Laxmi Ratan Shukla at the helm this season, however, changed the script for the seasoned off-spinner.
On Wednesday in Chennai, Sourasish proved that the coach and captain weren’t wrong in reposing faith in him. Saurasish’s seven-wicket haul (ten wickets in the match) set up a thrilling four-run victory for Bengal against Tamil Nadu, helping them to come closer to qualifying for the knock-out phase.
Unless Baroda manage to miraculously beat Rajasthan in Jaipur, Bengal’s position is safe. Bengal’s exact placing in the Group B standings will be determined after the end of the UP-Railways game in Lucknow.
“It was really a special effort… Remember we didn’t have our first XI regulars this time around. Yet we have managed to reach this stage, which just reflects the strength of this side,” said Sourasish.
“If you ask me about my bowling, I would only say that I’ve never shied away from trying and giving my best. The pitch aided spinners, so my job was just to put the ball in the right areas and the wicket did the rest…”
He didn’t forget to thank Shukla and Malhotra for keeping faith in his abilities.
“I would thank Laxmi and Ashok paaji, both of whom have been instrumental in bringing the best out of me. Laxmi, especially, has backed me right through my career. No wonder the dressing room atmosphere this time around is fantastic... Thanks to Laxmi and Ashok paaji.”
Starting the third morning at 102 for one, the hosts suffered a setback when Sourasish trapped Subramaniam Badrinath leg before for 21. He followed it up soon after with the big wicket of Dinesh Karthik, who was out for 62 off 148 balls.
The match turned on its head during the 12-over period between the 61st and 73rd overs, as TN lost six wickets for 27 runs to slide from 131 for 3 to 158 for 9. Sourasish took five of those wickets.
“Badrinath’s dismissal was the turning point… That helped us claw back into the game,” said the offie.
Shukla, too, was ecstatic about Sourasish.
“Sourasish was at his best today (Wednesday). For the last couple of seasons, he wasn’t a regular member of the side. So, on this occasion, he was fired up and determined to prove his detractors wrong,” said the Bengal captain.
“This is one of the best matches I’ve been part of... An incredible feeling... Some people had written us off, but we have bounced back and proved that if you want to write us off, do so at your own peril. Before play on Wednesday, I told the guys to just go all out and make a match of it because scoring runs was never easy on this wicket.
“Beating Tamil Nadu in Chennai is one of the toughest things... And we have done this job with aplomb… A special feeling,” explained Shukla.
Though not many had given Bengal much of a chance at the end of the second day, Shukla remained optimistic. “It’s an uphill task but not impossible… Remember the match isn’t over as yet,” was the captain’s message to the team on the third morning.
“Even though they were in a strong position at 102 for one, I knew that early wickets today would surely bring us back into the game. The ball was turning square right from the first day.
“So, batting last on this pitch was always going to be a mighty task. Our bowlers, led by Sourasish, pitched the ball in the right areas and you can see the rest... Had some decisions gone in our favour, we could’ve had them on the mat yesterday (Tuesday) itself.”
With the quarter-final berth almost assured, the captain is already focusing on the road ahead. “No matter who we play in the quarters, I’m sure we’ll fight till the very last ball,” Shukla warned.