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Malhotra ‘quietly confident’

Coach Ashok Malhotra with Manoj Tiwary at the Eden, on Monday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: Ashok Malhotra is hopeful Bengal will be able to produce another stellar performance in the Vijay Hazare Trophy after making the semi-finals of the Ranji Trophy.

Bengal leave for Ranchi on Tuesday morning to take part in the zonal leg of the tournament. Bengal begin against Odisha on Thursday.

“We have done well in the Ranji Trophy but the format will be different here… The players are confident, but I’m a bit nervous keeping in mind Bengal’s good record in the one-day format for the past few years… I would say we’re quietly confident,” said coach Malhotra at Eden Gardens on Monday.

Bengal had won the Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2011-12. Last season, they lost in the semi-finals to eventual champions Delhi.

Bengal didn’t have a practice session on the eve of their departure as the players were busy with the club engagements in the Knockout meet. Malhotra was present at the Eden to watch the Kalighat versus Bhowanipore match.

“I’ve been out of touch for nine years… I’ve been doing the rounds and watching local matches to get a sense of what’s happening at the club level… I need to get the team combination right… Get a sense of the talent available…” said Malhotra.

He didn’t wish to be drawn into any controversy regarding the team’s practice in the lead up to the tournament. “I’ve no complaints… We’ve got what we needed… We’ve done our practice with the white balls and there’s nothing to worry,” the coach explained.

Malhotra didn’t wish to pick any opponent for special mention in the zonal leg. “We’ll not be looking at our opponents… We’ll be looking at ourselves and give 100 per cent.

“We’ll be taking one game at a time… After the zonals, we’ll concentrate on the knockout round.”

Captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla was happy with the team composition.

“We have a decent squad at our disposal. Furthermore, each and every player is aware of his abilities.

“The players have been selected purely on the basis of their performances… I don’t think there would be any kind of over-reliance on any particular individual. These guys know it well enough that it’s team effort that determines success,” said Shukla.

The return of Manoj Tiwary has come as a big boon.

“What’s even better is that we have Manoj back in the squad. His presence in the batting line-up is always a relief for the other batsmen. He has been working very hard during practice and looks determined to make a fantastic comeback.

“Manoj knows he won’t get back the time that was lost because of injury. So, he’s desperate to make up for that lost time… He’s really hungry for runs,” said Shukla.

Like Malhotra, the Bengal captain was also happy with the preparations.

“I’m pretty happy with our preparations. We’ve all worked hard over the last few days while some of them have gone through the paces in the form of playing for their respective clubs.

“For instance, Wriddhiman scored a fine hundred today, something that should keep him in rhythm going into the one-dayers,” said Shukla.