Ranji Trophy: From player to coach - the journey of Saurasish Lahiri

Saurasish Lahiri was part of the Bengal team that played two Ranji finals in the mid-2000. In his maiden season as coach, he will be looking to complete the unfinished business.

Saurasish Lahiri (second from right) with Bengal cricketers.   -  CAB Media

Saurasish Lahiri was one of the architects behind Bengal's meteoric rise in red-ball cricket in the mid-2000. The spin-bowling all-rounder with 100 first-class games was part of two consecutive Ranji Trophy finals, in 2005-06 and the following season. He even dismissed Sachin Tendulkar twice in the same innings.

That time, Bengal couldn't go past the finish line against Uttar Pradesh and Mumbai, but Lahiri was a find. The 40-year-old's life is on the verge of completing the full circle. Six years after retirement, he has a chance to lay his hands on the Ranji Trophy as coach of the Bengal cricket team.

On the sidelines of his debut season as coach of the senior team in the red-ball format, under chief coach Arun Lal, Lahiri spoke to Sportstar on the importance of Ranji and his vision with the players. 

You have played nearly 16 seasons for Bengal. How does it feel to be back to the Ranji grind as the coach?

When I played, I worked hard and tried to perform. Now, being a coach, my perspectives are different. My focus is to become a team man. I want to know the players thoroughly to work around things. If you have to run the senior team, more than coaching, it is about man-management. You have superstar players, with some of them having represented India. How you deal with them is crucial.

Were you expecting this role?

My stint with the U-23 Bengal team in the past three years have been great. We won one one-day championship and played a few finals. It is an honour that the Cricket Association of Bengal thought of promoting me.

It must be a dream come true to work with Arun Lal...

I am lucky that I am working with Arun Lal, the icon. He is a lion-hearted man whose philosophy rubbed on to the players, and they tasted success in the last season. He has gone through a lot in life, but the way he approaches life every day is a lesson for all of us. I am learning under him. 

Since I have played for so many years in Bengal, I shared my perspectives with him. We discussed the players and how to go about addressing their concerns individually.

What does coach Lahiri bring to the table?

I take pride in making players. It is easy to criticise a player and remove him if he fails to perform. But as a coach, one should talk to that player and provide solutions to bring the best out of him. We will back our players and make them strong cricketers. A player can give you 10 out of 10, but you have to aim for 12.

You already had a hang of the team in Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali...

Bengal had not done well in white-ball in the past five years, but they fared well in Syed Mushtaq Ali. I don't have the trophy to show you yet, but Bengal was perhaps the second-best team after Tamil Nadu. It is a work in progress.

Wriddhiman Saha's absence is a blow, but why did Bengal ignore Shreevats Goswami?

Wriddhiman wanted time off, and we respect his decision. He has been a colossal part of Bengal over the years. Shreevats has also been a fantastic wicketkeeper-batsman for the state, but at the same time, Abishek Porel did well. He was a standby in the U-19 World Cup and had a phenomenal Cooch Behar Trophy with three consecutive centuries. Now it is time to blood the youngsters. You have to build a team for the future and win championships. You will need players who will play for a longer time for Bengal.

Left-arm pacer Ravi Kumar had a great run in the U-19 World Cup. He has joined the Ranji squad now. Your thoughts on his skills?

The credit should go to Bengal bowling coach Shib Shankar Paul who spotted him. He only said that Ravi would be the player for the future. And look where he has reached now. The entire world knows him now. Ravi should make the Ranji opportunity count.

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