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Sourav: Don’t be under pressure

Jagmohan Dalmiya (from left), Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Sourav Ganguly and PK Banerjee, at the Eden , on Tuesday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh

Calcutta: The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) organised a get-together, at the Eden Gardens premises, on Monday evening where sportspersons and coaches from different fields were present wishing the Bengal team good luck.

The Bengal team, led by Laxmi Ratan Shukla, will be leaving for Indore on Wednesday where they play Maharashtra in a Ranji Trophy semi-final beginning from Saturday.

From PK Banerjee to Naresh Kumar, from Dibyendu Barua to Jhulan Goswami, everyone was in attendance.

They also showed their support for the team by signing on goodwill board kept outside the main gate.

The star of the evening was Sourav Ganguly. The former India captain was the last to speak and his seven-minute speech was to the point unlike few of the speakers.

“Bengal play Maharashtra in the semi-final. It’s a pressure game. But Bengal should not be worried of anything. En route to the semi-finals, Bengal defeated teams like UP, Tamil Nadu and Railways. Maharashtra is comparatively a weaker team. So I do not see any reason why we cannot beat them,” Sourav said, as Shukla and coach Ashok Malhotra, also present on the dais, listened with rapt attention.

“While entering the CAB, a few journalists asked me whether all this hype will put pressure on the team. I would like to tell Laxmi that remember those four years, when Laxmi and I shared the dressing room and were fighting relegation.

“Ashok Malhotra has seen the good days. But Laxmi and others haven’t seen much. So why should the hype put them under pressure?

“Bengal have been a revelation this season. Players like Shib Shankar Paul and Sourasish Lahiri have made fantastic comebacks. There is so much to learn from these two.

“And I would also like to tell the boys whatever the result, we will be with you. We will still love you, we will continue to support you.”

Sourav did not want to give much importance to the fact that Maharashtra have a very strong batting line-up. Three players — Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Zol and Harshad Khadiwale — have been in great form. “As I have always said, it’s just a matter of one ball.”

Sourav praised Shukla for motivating the players. “He has done a wonderful job. Ashok (Malhotra) also has done a very good job. The players are all charged up and I hope they make it to the final.”

For PK Banerjee, it was déjà vu. In 1989-90 when Bengal won the Ranji Trophy, he was invited by Jagmohan Dalmiya to have a session with the Bengal team. “Ashok was in the team that year and today I see him again, but this time as a coach. It’s a fantastic effort by this team and I wish Laxmi and his team all the best. Go and enjoy the game. Do not think much about the result.”

Naresh Kumar’s presence lifted the profile of the function. And he was very articulate.

“Names mean nothing. Even if the rival team has better players what counts is how you play on the field on that particular day. These boys are doing extremely well and I am confident that Bengal will not only win the semi-final but also the final.”

Gurbux Singh, Jhulan Goswami, Bula Chowdhury, Joydeep Karmakar, Dibyendu Barua, archer Rahul Banerjee and shuttler Kaushik Pal also spoke.

Sports minister Madan Mitra, who was held up at an official engagement, came after the function.