After 14 years on the domestic circuit,Laxmi Ratan Shuklas pace has dropped but the Bengal all-rounder can still move the ball around. With age the once temperamental 30-year-old has mellowed down but once in a while the angry young man in him does surface.
Since the time Shukla failed to find a place in the East Zone Deodhar Trophy squad,announced on Saturday,he was hurt. With a string of great outings behind him during the season,he was keen to make a point to the zonal selectors. On Monday at Ferozeshah Kotla,as Bengal played the Vijay Hazare final,Shuklas wrath got an outlet. An unsuspecting Mumbai,didnt know what hit them.
The all-rounder first picked 4/38 with his seam-up medium pace in the morning to restrict Mumbai to 248. Later as his team management promoted him up to No.4,he scored a blistering unbeaten 106 from just 90 balls to help Bengal record a six wickets win and take their maiden Vijay Hazare title in their fourth attempt.
When Shukla walked in to replace skipper Sourav Ganguly,who scored a vintage 38,Bengal were on a tentative 69/2. The man,who made his international debut as teenager in 1999,showed his intentions quite early in the innings. He began with two exquisitely timed cover drives and followed it up with two square cuts that pierced the third man and point fielder. The confidence of the early touch saw him stepping out and hit left-arm spinner Ankit Chavan for a six over long off. Wicket-keeper Sreevats Goswami,at the other end,was attempting to play cheeky cricket in an effort to give Shukla the strike. But Iqbal Abdulla ran him out on his follow through.
Mumbai came back briefly into the game when Wriddhiman Sahas glorious streak of half-centuries ended with an unimpressive 11. Anustup Muzumdar was to play a supporting role in the 107-run fifth wicket partnership that was invaluable in context of the game. He went on to hit the winning runs that also brought his half-century.
However,it was Shuklas knock,with 12 boundaries and two sixes the second a stunning short-arm jab over mid-wicket off Kshemal Waingankar that allowed Bengal to wrap the final in 46.1 overs.
Jaffers knock in vain
Mumbai bowlers lacked the variety but it was their batsmen who should take blame for allowing the final to slip away after Wasim Jaffer had played a superlative knock at the start of the game. He along with Ajinkya Rahane scored 73 runs in the first ten overs. Jaffer got 11 runs off Gangulys first over,smacked left-arm spinner Iresh Saxena for 19 with three boundaries and six. He hadnt yet finished as he hit pacer Sourav Sarkar for 14 to pick 44 runs in three overs. Jaffer reached his half-century from 41 balls.
But once Shukla got the ball in his hand things changed. He dismissed Jaffer,Rahane and Anup Revandkar in a spell of 7-1-17-3. Mumbai kept losing wickets and momentum at regular intervals,and it was only because of Suryakumar Yadavs half-century towards the end that saw Mumbai going beyond the 200-mark. Shukla returned for his third spell to end Mumbais innings with the wicket of Kshemal.
For the Bengal skipper Ganguly,the victory corrects an anomaly in his illustrious career as this was the first time he was leading his state to a domestic title. As Shukla and Mazumdar celebrated in the middle,Ganguly sat back in the dressing room smiling. The festivities in the Bengal camp saw Shukla sporting a big smile. Understandably so,since in a perfect happy ending,the star of the day was informed that he had been picked as the 16th member in the East Zone squad.
Brief scores: Mumbai 248 all out in 49.2 overs (Wasim Jaffer 61,Suryakumar Yadav 50,Aditya Tare 35; Laxmi Ratan Shukla 4/38) vs Bengal 252/4 in 46.1 overs (Laxmi Ratan Shukla 106 not out,Anustup Majumdar 50 not out,Sourav Ganguly 38,Sreevats Goswami 42; Ajit Agarkar 1/40)