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Shukla may not lead Bengal

- Dinda could step in as captain in semi-final vs Maharashtra
Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Ashok Dinda

Calcutta: There’s a possibility that Laxmi Ratan Shukla might not go out for the toss when the much-awaited Bengal-Maharashtra Ranji Trophy semi-final gets underway, in Indore, on Saturday.

The Bengal team management is seriously mulling the option of handing the captaincy over to someone else, fearing that Shukla — if fined again — will have to skip the final should Bengal win the semi-final tie.

Shukla had been docked 100 per cent of his match fees by match referee Rajendra Jadeja in the quarter-final clash against Railways, due to a slow over rate.

Bengal were found seven overs short in the first innings and four short in the second.

“We are yet to take a final decision in this regard. But we are certainly thinking of sending someone else for the toss for this game.

“Laxmi has already been fined. Now, if we come across a scenario that we are through to the final but Laxmi won’t be able to play for being fined again, it will be a major blow to the team… We would like to avoid such a situation at any cost,” a team source said from Indore, on Thursday.

“It can’t get any worse with Laxmi not playing the final if we do manage to make it.”

For his part, though, Shukla declined to comment on the matter.

If Shukla does feature just as a player, in-form pacer Ashok Dinda will do the duty of being the captain. “Dinda is the vice-captain. So obviously, he will be the first choice if our plan materialises.

“But all the major decisions on the field will be taken by Laxmi only. It’s just that he might not be there for the toss… That’s it…” the source added.

Shukla, meanwhile, is down with a slight fever, but is confident of making the final XI. “It’s nothing serious. The fever is mainly because of tonsillitis.

“I had practised today and will do so tomorrow as well. I’m sure I’ll be able to play the match,” he said.

Not just because of three successive victories, but the wicket at the Holkar Cricket Stadium, too, is an aspect that makes the Bengal camp upbeat.

“The very look of the pitch suggests it has plenty to offer to the pacers. Our fast bowlers — Dinda, Shib Shankar (Paul) and Sourav (Sarkar) — have been bowling pretty well lately.

“So, I guess they will relish having a crack at the rival batsmen on this wicket.

“To be honest, there is an ‘all is well’ feeling in the camp at the moment. I’m confident this will last till the end,” Shukla stressed.

Given the conditions on offer, it wouldn’t be surprising if Bengal tinker with the present combination. Koushik Ghosh and young all-rounder Sandipan Das are in the fray as replacements of Subhomoy Das and Writtick Chatterjee.

“Sandipan can bowl medium pace, which could come in handy in these conditions. Koushik is also a promising talent. So, we need to weigh our options,” the captain remarked.