Mostly (but not all) about Sourav Ganguly and Chennai test
There has been so much of drama over the past few days in terms of Ganguly getting kicked out of the ODI team, making good scores in domestic cricket and making a back-door entry into the test squad, personally I would like this process to take its natural course. Let Ganguly play and lets find out if the man still has it in him or not! Again, left to me, I wouldn’t have picked him in the 15 but since he is there, there is really no point in keeping him out of the 11. With others like Yuveraj and Kaif, one knows they will someday graduate to the top level and play test cricket … forget for how long and how outstanding their records would be. With Ganguly, we r talking of a man in the sunset of his career … hell, this could be the last test match he ever plays. Or, if indeed he roars back with some great performances, then I wouldn’t be so churlish to refuse the obvious benefit to the team. Whichever way the ball rolls, lets get it over with … lets do this and move ahead in life; with or without Ganguly.
The tag of all-rounder notwithstanding, I don’t expect anything great from him with the ball … he is a dibbly dobbly bowler who requires tremendous amount of assistance from conditions to make him even slightly dangerous; if the cyclonic storm creates conditions favourable to Ganguly, then his bowling makes sense otherwise we r better off throwing the ball as quickly as possible to Kumble and Bhajji. On that cyclonic storm, I was reading today that the storm has been steady for a long time and they were doubting if it would hit Chennai after all … but someone told me later that the weather in Chennai is already getting changed and it looks like rain … so I don’t know really.
It is with the bat, at No. 5 or 6 that Ganguly can do something to send out a message that he isn’t done yet. Personally, I would send Laxman before him, simply coz Laxman can’t play with the tail, something we have seen many times before … and because Laxman is about 10,000 times a better bat than Ganguly. But if Ganguly comes in at 6, then it also isn’t quite a fair way of judging a man standing with a sword on his neck … making him bat with the tail. It is a difficult question, this one, and I don’t envy Chappell and Dravid. As of now, I really cannot see the correct answer.
In one way, we might even see a Ganguly who looks like a batsman once more. As a captain, it was not necessary for him to score; hence it was not necessary to practice or to work hard. With the change in regime, the message has been passed in pretty blunt terms – runs r the only thing that r going to count … oh, of course, also something called commitment and attitude. Ganguly always had the attitude but I think it just needs to be fine tuned a bit to match what is required by the team management today; the commitment part is something that will really bother him. Not commitment to Indian cricket coz despite everything, I have always seen him as a well wisher of Indian cricket; but commitment to working hard on his fitness and his fielding and other menial tasks not associated with people with special status he had conferred on himself for the past couple of years. Now that he is a common man, can he really handle the hard work that goes along with it?
I read this article a month or so back about a princess from the Japanese royal family who was getting married … there is some law in Japan that for women after marriage, the royal status is withdrawn and they have to leave the palace and live like a commoner. So the Japanese govt passed a motion to give the princess (and her hubby, a banker or something) a million dollars as a final settlement towards her becoming a commoner. Also, seems they gave her training on how to shop in malls and vegetable markets etc coz she had never done it before. Something of the same sort for Ganguly!
In some corner of my heart, I can’t help wishing Ganguly succeeds. I have been a great admirer of him for a long time though I have despised him in the last year and a half. He is someone who raised Indian cricket from the depths and taught them to stand and fight. He was someone who led from the front and that is the problem – “was” is the keyword here. All cricketers have to developer their skills over time and there came a time when Ganguly’s skills became old and in need for fine-tuning. At this time instead of concentrate on bettering himself according to the needs of the game, he chose to believe that the rules of the game no longer applied to him. He became bigger than Indian cricket and like many dictators, saw his path as the correct path to progress.
Ganguly is human and he has erred but like under him so many got “one more chance”, it is perhaps fitting that he gets one more chance too. That he will have to take it with both hands is an unsaid agreement between him and the powers-that-be. He might have given Yuveraj a dozen chances and Bhajji a half-a-dozen but I don’t think he is under any illusion that he will get even a fraction of those number of chances.
It seems a bit unprofessional to keep Yuveraj out simply coz he has been in good form, albeit in ODIs. I have seen one thing in the Yuveraj of this series that I have not seen in him before – trying to keep the bat straight! Ok, so that doesn’t mean he will be a good test player but it shows that he is working to better himself … and when one makes the effort, it will surely lead to something positive.
Hey, who knows … if Chappell has the “experimentation / flexibility” bhoot on their heads still, we might very well see Ganguly come top of the order. Isn’t that what Greg C suggested to him in Zimbabwe as a last resort of how he saw Ganguly being part of the XI.
Anyway, Ganguly deserves better than what he is getting right now but the irony is that he has reaped what he has sowed so he really is not in a position to blame anyone for his ills. He is a strong man but if he can scale this mountain, it would probably be the greatest comeback of all times, the many by Mohinder Amarnath notwithstanding.
As I mentioned before, a small part of me wants him to succeed simply coz a man who taught the Indian team to play with guts and glory shouldn’t bow out in such a pathetic manner … but another part of me worries about his succeeding with the bat and not succeeding with the attitude-change part. It is like the story of Harry Potter where the followers of he-who-must-not-be-named lie low and wait for their master to come back to power. I don’t want a repeat of the last days of the John Wright era where there were Ganguly’s boys and the rest of the team. Of course, my fear of this happening has dissipated somewhat after Jaggu dada’s ouster from the BCCI top post but Ganguly has tasted power for 5 years … how long will he be satisfied being the foot soldier again … that is my worry.
Anyway, enough on Ganguly … on the Pawar faction’s victory in the elections, I am hearing noises about Sunil Gavaskar being offered a big post in the new structure … there r talks of two General Managers instead of one CEO and Sunny being one of the General Managers. U gotta hand it to the guy … Dalmiya is in power and Sunny gets some plum positions … Dalmiya loses and Pawar comes to power and hey, Sunny gets some plum positions again.
I consider him the shrewdest apple in the entire basket of Indian cricket (counting ex-players only) but I also consider him to be among the most selfish and biased people associated with cricket. He talks so much but how much has he really contributed to Indian cricket after his playing days got over? Not much at all, though he is never short of words when some criticism has to be handed out, whether it be with respect to players or the way administration matters are handled. I, for one, hope that Mr. Sunil Gavaskar continues to be the voice of ESPN / STAR and stays away from Indian cricket.
Before I forget, something about Bhajji. I for one have been wondering for the past two years or so as to why Bhajji was always an integral part of the team. Apart from being Ganguly’s boy, there seemed to be little other reason. In the past couple of series, against SL and SA, he has really bought back his credibility.
Whether it be a lack of confidence or a technical fault creeping in, he had stopped flighting the ball and was pushing it on off and middle in the ODIs … which resulted in easy pickings for the batsmen on the on side. Right now, there is no trace of that bowler and the Bhajji of the SL and SA series has been flighting the ball like never before and rarely pitching anywhere except off and outside off. The line change obviously makes a difference coz he is an off-spin bowler and pitching it on off and middle really gives him no weapons to fight with. The flight has really come as a bolt from the blue coz really it has been two years or more that I have seen any Indian spinner flight it so much, that too in the ODIs.
Basically Bhajji is the second guy to have come back from the dead since Chappell took over, the first being SRT. And when one considers that Bhajji was the only guy to openly come out in support of Ganguly and against Chappell, those advocating Chappell’s lack of man-management skills surely have some answers to come up with. Such a huge difference cannot come about without there being a very good understanding between team management and the bowler … there has been some fence-mending since the outburst against Chappell and whatever agreements may have been worked out between the two, it has resulted in a new bowler … really, while he may not have won a man of the match or man of the series award, he has been one of the main reasons why India has won 8 of 11 matches in the recent two series … his bowling has been amazing!
Hey, let me not forget to mention his new-found fielding skills. Bhajji was never a poor fielder but in the past couple of series, he has been moving from “average” to “good” to “could-be-brilliant”. In some previous post during the SL series, I talked about some great fielding of his inside the circle at square leg … and in the last match against SA, first he runs hard to his left on the deep mid-wicket boundary and goes sliding on his stomach to pull the ball back from the ropes, restricting the batsmen to two instead of four … and then in the same over, when the frustrated batsman (he was already adding four to the score as he started running) tried a big hit, this time he ran slight forward – again on the deep mid-wicket boundary - to his right and dived to come up with a great catch … I think the batsman in both cases was Boucher. This wasn’t just good fielding … this was fielding bordering on brilliant … and I can say from watching a lot of TV that this is a hidden talent that is suddenly come out now … what caused it to come out now is something I don’t know … but if a fight with the coach is gonna give such good results, hey let them fight every six months or so.
Finally on Dinesh Karthick being replaced by Dhoni, too bad for Karthick but the fans have to remember one thing. It is not about what is fair and what is not … many people r saying it is not fair on Karthick coz he hasn’t done anything wrong … it is not about being fair but about getting the best XI out there … Dhoni looks to be a better potential than Karthick and there is no other way than to try him out … maybe Karthick thinks that sucks but if Dhoni can demolish attacks the way he did in the ODI series, the edge he provides cannot be ignored. When Rahul Dravid was made to keep wickets in the ODIs even after becoming arguably the best batsman in the side (after being at a stage where he had to keep to be part of the team), people said it wasn’t fair … and I still said at that time that it wasn’t about fairness but about what worked best. If Karthick feels he was hard done by, he should just try to be better than Dhoni however high Dhoni might be flying now. He surely cannot command a place in the XI coz it wouldn’t be fair to leave out someone who hasn’t done anything wrong. That just doesn’t make sense. Today Dhoni makes sense … if he fails, Karthick or Patel or whoever comes into the picture again … if Dhoni succeeds, … well, then who cares if it was fair or not?
Chalo guys, cheers