Ashok Malhotra, the former India and Bengal batsman, was named coach of the Bengal team, taking over from WV Raman, who had stepped down from the job and signed on as the Tamil Nadu coach.
Stressing that the team should have done "much better" than it did in the Ranji Trophy last season, Malhotra said that his job would be to get out of his comfort zone of being an "armchair critic" and "walk the talk".
"It's tough for me to say anything about Raman. The team played well in the one-day tournaments, but considering there are four-five players in the team who are good enough to play for India, we didn't do well in the Ranji Trophy. But don't use that as criticism of Raman's capabilities as coach," said Malhotra to Wisden India. "I have been an armchair critic for long [as a TV pundit]. Now I have to walk the talk myself. I think the team should have done better but now I have to prove that the team can do well."
Malhotra becomes the first 'local' coach of the Bengal team after 12 years of experimenting with non-Bengal coaches. "Yes, that makes it a bigger challenge," acknowledged Malhotra. "We haven't been able to exploit our home advantage much and that's something I will focus on in a big way. There is no reason for this team not to do well, so I will do whatever it takes to help."
There have been reports by the local media of factions within the Bengal team, with players pulling in different directions, and Malhotra said that man-management would be part of his job. "I am not aware of any factions in the team, but I know that keeping the dressing room happy is part of my job as a man manager. I am on good terms with many of the players, so that should help me do my job."
Malhotra explained that as someone who has captained Bengal in the past and spent many years in Kolkata, he will be a "friend and a well-wisher" to the boys. "I also know the local language, even if I don't speak it fluently. I haven't been a coach much, but I have realised that one of the main things in coaching is to communicate well. Speaking the same language does help," he said.
Malhotra played seven Tests and 20 One-Day Internationals for India from 1982 to 1986, and was part of the side that won the 1985 World Championship of Cricket in Australia. He was also part of the national selection panel in the early part of the 2000s decade.