Bengal v Railways, Ranji Trophy quarter-finals, Kolkata, 5th day January 12, 2014

Shukla lauds 'champions' of Bengal

Shukla: I had said at the start that this would be a tough match, but we were desperate to win © Abhijit Addya

As Laxmi Shukla sat down for the post-match press conference, he put his arms around Ashok Dinda and Wriddhiman Saha, who were seated either side of him and declared: "The two champions of Bengal."

The camaraderie in the side that had just beaten Railways to enter their first semi-final since 2006-07, when they were the runners-up, was easy to see and, given the impact they had on the match, Shukla's statement seemed justified. Dinda took eight wickets in the match, including a six-for in the first innings, and scored some useful runs lower down the order. Saha, meanwhile, played two important knocks of 87 and 81 to help Bengal post totals that were, on both occasions, out of reach for Railways. Saha was also named Man of the Match for his efforts.

"They are the senior players and they delivered under pressure," Shukla said. "The way Dinda and Sourav Sarkar partnered together, the way Wriddhi played in the second innings. It was a convincing win and we did the small things well."

Shukla also heaped praise on Railways, saying the close nature of the game was a measure of the opposition Bengal faced. "All the games went to four days, but ours went into five," Shukla said. "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. We have nothing to look back at. We have lost so much. We had a good team but did badly in the last few seasons. I am not too happy, but happy enough to make the semis. We have a long way to go and a lot to do."

Dinda, who was wildly cheered by a large crowd just outside the entrance of the stadium, said he was happy with the win, Bengal's third in three matches, and hoped the team would go on to win the remaining two.

Saha, whose fifties and lower-order partnerships rescued Bengal in critical situations, said he was spurred by the aim to do well in the tournament. "I want to do well, very well," Saha said. "The idea is to build partnerships - 10s and 20s. The lower order also batted well in this match. Dinda, Maco [SS Paul] and Sarkar were outstanding in the last spell and today."

Both Shukla and Saha also credited Ashok Malhotra for his inputs as coach. Malhotra was appointed coach earlier this year after WV Raman resigned. "Paaji [Malhotra] inspires us a lot," Shukla said. "Even if someone is unwell, he inspires him. 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 we have a long way to go."

When asked what he thought about the possibility of Mohammed Shami and Saha's inclusion in India's XI on the New Zealand tour, Shukla said: "This is not an achievement, this is our passion. 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."

Rachna Shetty is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo