New Delhi: Bengal captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla in the past 15 years has played a number of match-winning innings, a few match saving knocks, provided important breakthroughs but never earned back the faith of national selection committees after being dumped when he was just 19.
At 32, as the senior-most member of the Bengal side that has made it to the semi-finals of the Ranji Trophy, the gutsy all-rounder doesn`t want bitter thoughts about national comeback cloud his mind.
Shukla has been to Bengal cricket what Wasim Jaffer has been for Mumbai and Mithun Manhas for Delhi. State`s most consistent domestic performer--- a match winner as well as a match-saver on innumerable occasions.
"I believe we still have two matches left and with so much left to achieve, I can`t let thoughts of why and why not cloud my mind. I have a young team and I want to win the Ranji Trophy. I don`t want to get bogged down by thinking about whether I deserved a call-up or not in all these years," Shukla told PTI over phone from Indore ahead of his team`s semi-final against Maharashtra starting January 18.
This season Shukla has evolved both as a performer and a leader of a team that`s not used to consistent success at the national level.
"I have played back-to-back Ranji Trophy finals and this is just a semi-final. So comparison with previous seasons isn`t a good thing at this juncture. Yes, what I can say is that, I have never played in such variety of pitches in a single domestic season.
"Eden Gardens were green-tops (2 centuries and a 76), Jamia Millia was a slow track (95), Chepauk was a square turner (46 in 2nd innings). So it`s been satisfactory that I have been able to score on different kind of tracks."
"But then I am not the one to get excited about it. It`s my duty isn`t it? I have never celebrated a century with biryani nor do I sulk when I get out for a first-ball duck. Life is not complicated and cricket I believe is a simple game. I want these kids (Sudip Chatterjee, Abhimanyu Easwaran) to believe that we are just playing another match," said the veteran who has 5732 runs and 153 wickets from 124 games.
Shukla doesn`t believe that the hype created by CAB will affect the performance of the players.
"Bengal is an emotional place and yes we go overboard with everything --- be it celebrations or disappointments. The team is still focussed on the match. And if you ask me about CAB`s functions -- I believe a bit of love, affection and blessings before a big match is not a bad thing," said Shukla, who on his own admission, has calmed down a lot because of his wife Smita and son Agasthya`s influence.
But is winning the Ranji Trophy a big enough motivation if there isn`t an incentive of national call-up, Shukla concludes with a lot of conviction, "Of course it is. Bengal cricket has given me everything. It`s pay back time for me. The Bengal jersey is one thing that will remain with me till the last day of my life".
On the upcoming semi-final, Shukla said that young batsmen Koushik Ghosh and Sandipan Das might get a look-in in place of Subhamoy Das and Writtick Chatterjee.