His career as an India all-rounder was all too brief after he was picked as a talented teenager more than a decade ago. But Bengal mainstay Laxmi Ratan Shukla hit a real low when the selectors dumped him from the East Zone squad for the Deodhar Trophy inter-zonal one-day tournament on disciplinary grounds. He was added as the 17th member after this performance.
The 30-year-old was provoked alright but channelled his anger in the right manner, producing a stunning individual display to carry Bengal to their first-ever Vijay Hazare Trophy with a six-wicket victory over Mumbai at the Ferozshah Kotla ground on Monday.
The toss had been a headache for teams calling it wrong at the venue, and Mumbai did get off to a decent start after skipper Ajit Agarkar elected to bat. In the end, they could have few complaints as Shukla's four-wicket haul was followed by a neatly paced, unbeaten 106.
Before the final, Bengal skipper Sourav Ganguly had said he wanted to end his team's unsuccessful run in the tournament. And he found his man in old-war horse, Shukla.
Mumbai opener Wasim Jaffer again showed his form. His 61 from 48 balls in front of a reasonably big crowd at Kotla for a domestic game was a treat to watch.
Jaffer took 40 runs from three overs by Ganguly, who bowled his full quota of 10 overs, Iresh Saxena and Sourav Sircar. He reached his half century off just 41 balls and added 83 with Ajinkya Rahane (24).
But a good one from Shukla, which moved away a bit for the right-hander to miss and crash into the stumps, ended it. Soon Rahane and Anup Revandkar also became Shukla's victims.
Back in the eleven after missing the semifinal, Surya Kumar Yadav was the only other Mumbai batsman who looked in control. He and wicketkeeper Aditya Tare added 49 for the fourth wicket but Bengal didn't let them cross 250 as Shukla picked up the last man Kshemal Waingankar.
"We did well to restrict Mumbai for less than 250 after they were cruising at one stage," said coach WV Raman.
Bengal were two down for 69 in the 18th over, and it was Shukla again who played the role of a senior partner with opener Sreevats Goswami. Just as Bengal crossed the 100 mark, Goswami was run out. Soon, Wriddhiman Saha also fell with 104 runs needed.
Shukla then mixed caution with aggression along with Anustup Majumdar and brought up his century in 87 balls. "It is my best all-round performance as I helped the team comeback in the game both with the ball and bat," Shukla said later.
Mumbai 248 all out in 49.2 overs (Jaffer 61, Yadav 50, Shukla 4-38) lost to Bengal 252/ 4 in 46.1 overs (Shukla 106*, Majumdar 50*).