Kolkata: Effusive in his praise of coach Ashok Malhotra (in pic), Bengal players on Sunday said the former batsman was a role model for the team as they made the Ranji Trophy semifinals for the first time after 2006-07.
"Paaji (Malhotra) inspires us a lot. Even if someone is running high temperature, he inspires him," Bengal skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla said after their 48-run win over Railways here.
"I am not going to compare him with previous coaches, but Paaji is an inspiration to us. He has played such great cricket too. We have tried to do well and we have succeeded, but long way to go," Shukla said of the 56-year-old, who was part of their famous Ranji Trophy winning team in 1989-90. (Also read: Shukla docked full match fees for team's slow over rate)
Wicketkeeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha, who returned from national duty, to contribute to Bengal's win with two half centuries too was all praise for the Bengal coach.
"This has given us great confidence. Paaji had told me to just stay there and bat for time. I managed to do that. We are all friends and we are playing well for the same cause," Saha said.
Saha also praised Shukla, who led from the front in Manoj Tiwary's absence both with bat and bowl to contribute immensely to Bengal's road to the semis.
"He gives us 100 per cent. No one is a captain in our side. Everyone is a captain. We all take decisions together," Saha said in a joint press conference with Shukla and Ashoke Dinda.
Showing a great camaraderie, Shukla said he wanted the duo along with Mohammad Shami to see only in India colours.
"I have said before that I don't want to see Wriddhi and Dinda and Shami in the dressing room. I want to see them playing for India. The more they play for India, the more proud we will feel. Wriddhi will be there for the semis. Happy with that."
Despite getting the Board's best allrounder award, Shukla has been overlooked by the national selectors.
Asked had he stopped thinking about making an India comeback, Shukla was interrupted by Dinda who said: "We all want him to be in India dressing room, so that I can be the captain."
In the same vein, Shukla went on to praise the young duo of Sudip Chatterjee and Abhimanyu Easwaran, the other two performers in Bengal's fairy tale Ranji campaign.
"Very happy with the youngsters. The way they controlled things from 3 for 2. I am very happy. I hope they continue. They are starting out. Everyone is trying to play well. I hope the remainder of the journey is good too. We want to improve too. We will sit down and discuss everything."
Referring to other three quarters that were over in four days, Shukla also gave due credit to bitter foes Railways, against whom Bengal had an ill-tempered outing both at the league stage and during this game.
"Only ours went into five days. Credit to Railways. They topped our group and were a superb team. I had said at the start that this would be a tough match, but we were desperate to win. However, we never thought of revenge".
Railways might have been subjected to a hostile Eden crowd but they were graceful in their Ranji quarters defeat.
Terming them an intelligent cricket crowd, Sharma said:"The crowd were fantastic in allt he five days. The understood the game of cricket, although they always supported the home side."
Sharma also thanked CAB president Jagmohan Dalmiya for deploying extra security after Murali Kartik and pacer Anureet Singh were heckled by fans on day three.
"He (Dalmiya) took extra pain to deploy a strict security after the incident. We're thankful to him."
The Railways coach Sharma further credited Bengal for their achievement.
"It's a fantastic achievement, they played some good cricket. Our batting was not up to the mark in the second innings."