After much speculation, the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) on Tuesday appointed former India cricketer Laxmi Ratan Shukla as the Bengal coach for the upcoming season.
Shukla will replace Arun Lal, who stepped down at the end of this season.
Lal was successful as Bengal coach, taking the team to the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy final and guiding the side to the semifinal this term. However, after Bengal lost to Madhya Pradesh in the last-four stage, Lal, 66, stepped down, citing “fatigue”.
CAB President Avishek Dalmiya said, “I am extremely happy to announce our very own Laxmi Ratan Shukla as the new senior Bengal team coach. I am very hopeful that under him Bengal cricket would reach greater heights as we all know his commitment for Bengal cricket. He can connect with the players very smoothly.”
He further added, “Sourashis Lahiri would be continuing his position as the assistant coach of the team considering his performance in the recent past. Veteran cricketer and former Bengal coach W V Raman has been appointed as the batting consultant.”
Shukla said, “It’s a new responsibility and I will give my best like I did when I used to play for Bengal. I like taking new challenges. We have come close to winning trophies in the past but we’ll have to do it all over again to reach the top in the new season.”
Former India and Mumbai opener Wasim Jaffer was the CAB’s first choice, but he has already taken up the role to coach the Bangladesh U-19 team. The state association initially thought about hiring a coach from the Indian Premier League, someone like Abhishek Nayar or Andy Flower, but ultimately the search was narrowed down to Shukla and Ashok Dinda, the two former Bengal stalwarts.
Shukla, who played three ODIs, 137 first-class games and 141 List A matches, has been in charge of the Bengal U-23 team and according to a CAB source, has made a natural progression. The appointment will be in sync with the state association’s policy to hire a younger coach, who is a popular figure in the dressing room. The ex-all-rounder is 41 years old.