Bengal Cricket: The story of Kalighat Club being back at the top flight

Kalighat Club player-cum-mentor Hirak Sengupta and coach Sanjib Sanyal shares the story of club's comeback at top flight of Bengal Cricket.

Koushik Biswas
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Bengal Cricket: The story of Kalighat Club being back at the top flight | Cricket News | Sportz Point

Kalighat Club is known as the team to make it 5-on-5 in Bengal Cricket. The team comes with a reputation and a history of the past. From Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Manoj Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha, and Ashoke Dinda many Bengal legends have played for the club and made it an institutional entity of Bengal Cricket. However, the team did not do well in the last two years and was relegated to Group B in Bengal Cricket. With 9 wins out of 9 in the league till now, they not only are back in the top flight, they are fighting for the championship now. Kalighat Club player-cum-team mentor Hirak Sengupta and coach Sanjib Sanyal shared their thoughts in an exclusive interview with Sportz Point.

For context, the first-division cricket of Kolkata Club cricket is divided into three groups. Group-A is in the top flight and the other two B and C are in the lower flight of first-division cricket. Hence, teams need to top groups B and C to make a comeback in the top flight of Bengal Cricket. Kalighat not only won matches but won in a single day in 5 of those 9 matches. This describes their domination till now. Team mentor Hirak Sengupta thanked team owner Bablu Koley for his vision and all the help.

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"First of all, I want to thank Bablu sir for how he has given me a chance to make this team, and the way he has helped each and every one of the team is just outstanding. On the behalf of all the players, we are thankful to him," Hirak said. Hirak feels it was a challenge for him to get this team at this place. "It was a personal challenge for me," he said.

"Look, I was doing well for Mohun Bagan as a player. In fact, I was one of their best performers. We won 3 trophies out of 4 including the league after 16 years as well. But I do not know why I was thrown out of the team. Moreover, they did not even pay me the whole amount of money as well. I still owe them 1.5 lakhs of rupees. They did not even receive my calls. So when Bablu sir asked me to play for the Kalighat club I was more than happy. I had played for Kalighat club in the past while playing for Bengal U19s. So, I had taken this as a personal challenge to bring back glory to this club," he added further.

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"In the first season, the team did not do well as we were missing 8 of our main players. Moreover, two matches were washed out due to rain. But Bablu sir had faith in me. In the next season even after winning 11 out of 11 matches due to covid, we could not qualify for the super league. This season Bablu sir called me and literally forced me to create the team," team mentor Hirak Sengupta told us.

After having the responsibility the first thing Hirak did was to get Sanib Sanyal involved as a coach of the team. And according to Hirak, "It changed everything after that".

"We started earlier than any team. I approached Sanjib Sanyal to start around July and he agreed happily. The practice seasons were as good as any top teams of Bengal. Even you can say state-level practice. So, everything was falling in place from the start. You have to remember that generally better players do not want to come to play outside the super league. Moreover, we do not have any current junior or senior Bengal players. I am super proud of the team," Hirak added.

But why did Kalighat start early? Coach Sanjib Sanyal said, "As the squad was decided, I knew those players had some technical issues in them. Cricket is such a game that it takes time to make technical changes. So, I wanted to work on them to make those changes."

"Cricket is all about making specific changes and doing specific training. It is not about doing only nets now-a-days. So, I wanted to focus on the process of each and every training session and player. I believe if we can focus on the process, the results will come automatically," he added further.

As the coach of the Kalighat Club I wanted to focus on the process, the mentor wanted to give the players a motto of winning the trophy. "I did not tell them that we want to qualify for the super league. We had the goal to win trophies. In that process, we played the T20 semis, One-day final and will play the quarter-final of the league as well," Hirak told.

In recent times, Bengal has proved to be a "happy-place" for outstation players. Hirak believes that, "our home grown players are good enough to do well for Bengal. Look, East Bengal and Kalighat are among teams who are playing at the knock-outs level of each tournament, even semis and finals too. Both the teams are full of exciting homegrown talents. Only Ravikant Shukla (Indian Oil player) played for us in the one-day final. So we are setting examples for other teams, if you want to say," the Kalighat Club team mentor added.

However, coach Sanji Sanyal had a different view on this topic. "Look, honestly speaking Bengal players are still a bit behind than other state players Delhi and all. If players from those states come and play at the club level, we need to make sure that other players are learning from them. They play all around India. They play on different pitches. Moreover, they play a huge amount of matches. So, they are more fearless in their approach. Hence, if players like Shahbaz are coming and doing well, I do not have issues with that. You need to make sure that you are not pushing 6-7 players into it."

Not only that, Sanjib Sanyal also believes that Bengal players have to be more fearless in their approach, even in their life. "You can not do well when you constantly think about getting dropped if you do not score runs. My advice for them is to play more matches. Players need to go out of Bengal and play tournaments in other states. The outline is the more you play, the more you learn," he added.

Kalighat had one of the best bowling lineups in Kolkata Cricket season this season. Aritra Chatterjee, Mithilesh Das, Ananta Saha, Amit Kuila, B Amit and Pritam Chakraborty all have been very good for them. "They all had faith in me. They all trusted me blindly. I told them to change a few things. They did it without asking any questions. So, once we started following the process, the results started coming. And, obviously they all are very skillful as well, so it helped too," coach Sanjib Sanyal added.

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