An era in Bengal cricket that had begun in 1981 ended today. Former Test opener Arun Lal finally bade goodbye to competitive cricket as he played his last club match for East Bengal. It was the end of a 20-year-old career in Bengal that had seen the blossoming of cricket in this state.
During his playing days for the state and the zone side, Lal had won everything that mattered. He was instrumental in bringing Bengal its first Ranji Trophy after 51 years in 1989. He played a leading role in East Zone's victories in the Duleep and the Deodhar Trophy. Above all, he was the man responsible for making Bengal and East Zone a force to reckon with in the national scenario in the eighties and the early nineties. He also played 16 Tests for India from 1982 to 1989 scoring 729 runs at an average of 26 with a highest score of 93,
The 46-year old Lal finally found the going too tough in the summer even for the club matches. Lal, who is now the chief coach of the East Zone branch of the National Cricket Academy said that physical shortcomings were forcing him to quit the game that he loved playing so much. "It may seem strange, but this year, I had problems after playing club matches in the hot and humid summer. That is why I decided to quit after the official end of the season today."
Lal said he could have continued by picking and choosing the matches that he wanted to play. However, the professional that he is, he refused to take such a path. "A club signs me for the entire season. Most of the important club matches are played in March when the summer sets in. So I cannot really opt out of any match," he explained. He added, "Even last year during the same period I had scored a hundred. However, I did not feel as drained as I have been feeling this year. The recovery factor is taking too long a time. This has forced me to take the decision to quit."
Unlike many others, Lal sees a very promising future for Bengal cricket. "There are plenty of young cricketers who are coming up. Players like Arindam Das and Rahul Deb are going to help Bengal in the future." Lal will continue to keep in touch with the game by coaching, going on commentary assignments and writing columns on cricket. The bearded opener had never formally announced his retirement from first class cricket even though he stopped playing for Bengal after 1995. Bengal cricket will always be in debt to the man from Kapurthala.