Wriddhiman Saha and Laxmi Ratan Shukla unleash carnage at the Eden Gardens in P Sen Trophy semi-final
A rare sight could be seen on this weekend at the Eden Gardens, where a State Minister was seen blasting a 19-ball half century to get his side into the final of the biggest 50-over tournament in Bengal. The man in question is Laxmi Ratan Shukla, who turned heads during his comeback match for Mohun Bagan, almost stealing the thunder from the feat of his batting partner Wriddhiman Saha, who raced to the second fastest century ever in Bengal cricket, off 36 balls.
Batting first on Saturday, Netaji Subhas Institute managed to score 197 runs before losing all their wickets in the 47th over. Shukla, who was the only notable addition to the side from the historic pink ball match victory, claimed one wicket as well, conceding only 17 runs from his six overs.
Nobody must have been prepared for the carnage that followed, however. Laxmi Shukla and Wriddhiman Saha blasted balls out of the park at will, reaching the target in 13.2 overs, at an unbelievable scoring rate of 14.9 runs per over.
The 35-year-old Shukla, who announced his retirement from all forms of cricket last season, and is currently the Minister of State for sports, youth affairs and public works department, did not show any signs of rust, as all his three sixes seemed to land in as distant parts of the stadium as they used to. His unbeaten knock also consisted of six fours.
India wicketkeeper Saha was majestic on way to his 36-ball century, before going out in the last stages of the match. He had opened the innings for Mohun Bagan, and started out in a devastating note straightaway, as his partner Vivek Singh gave him good support (31 off 16 balls). Shukla came out to carry on the good work after Singh’s dismissal, as Saha continued with his destruction – his innings comprised eleven fours and seven sixes.
There was some confusion after the match if this was the fastest ever century in the history of Bengal cricket, but it was Saha himself who put this to rest. He said that he had himself scored a 28-ball century in the JC Mukherjee T20 tournament, but that it had been achieved on the much smaller YMCA ground.
Mohun Bagan have reached the final of the P Sen Invitational Trophy, to be played against Kalighat on Monday, which promises to be a clash between Bengal’s best – while Saha and Shukla are the biggest names in the MB camp, Manoj Tiwary and Sudip Chatterjee will play for the Kalighat side. It can be expected that the Kalighat side will not find themselves as hapless as Bagan’s semi-final opponents did.