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"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an agèd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Captain audacious

To call him audacious is one of the most charitable acts I've done in recent times. He is selfish, stupid and plain shameless. To cap it all, he cannot play cricket! Hardly the qualifications one can possess and still skipper the Indian cricket team. But this is India, haven to conformists! Sourav "all-talk no-cricket" Ganguly would only be too happy to create a storm and still be assured of his place for the next five years.

Selection ‘rules’

So much has been said about team selection, yet the committee errs every time. India should be only cricket playing nation that honours the top performers at the state level by asking them to carry water bottles and messages from the pavilion to the pitch. And those who are indeed lucky to break that jinx have their performances scrutinized so hard that they feel they were better off running errands.

A Sadagopan Ramesh would average 40+ in his first 20 innings and yet be dropped for lack of footwork. A Hemang Badani would score two successive 50s and a couple of 30s in five games, and would find himself axed for the next series. An Ajay Ratra would score a test century keeping only the lower order for company – axed. Same for Sameer Dighe, Saba Karim, Deep Dasgupta, Laxmipathy Balaji, Devang Gandhi. Even Anil Kumble is no exception.

Teams that have been successful over the past few years have realized the need for squad consistency. Australia, England, Sri Lanka, South Africa… How else do you build an esprit de corps? Inconsistent performers are offered a timeframe to rectify their shortcomings; else they are given the marching orders. But never has it been the case with India. At least not for the senior cricketers. Why?

Because we have to carry along the deadweight of an erstwhile prince! Performance-based selection in India? Heard of a guy called Michael Bevan? The guy with that menacing smile, who rubs salt into every opposition. He cannot break into the Australian squad. If I were coach, I would replace a clutch of Indian (so-called) batsmen with Bevans.

Coach or captain?

If things come to a pass that only one of Ganguly or Chappell should stay, who should it be? Anyway, what is the role of a captain? He is a senior player who can marshal his resources, lead them from the front and accept responsibility for on-field happenings. In short, he should lead by example.

Ganguly? His bad patch is so wide that a couple of airstrips can be planned there, leaving enough space for a Formula One circuit and a golf course. Leadership by example, anyone?

Every few months, there is a pan-Indian debate about Sachin Tendulkar’s form and legacy. They say, he never won a match for us. They call his a legend, but with some reservations. But why do such debates never feature Dada. Of course, we have remixed our old jokes to deride him, all right. But no one ever says, Look, he won this game single-handedly.

The role of a coach is not very evident in a game like cricket. Soccer clubs serve as a good example. Good players alone maketh not a winning team. If so, why is Real Madrid, with all its galacticos being drubbed week after week? On the contrary, even a second-rung side like Porto won the Champions League last year. The reason? Coach Jose Mourinho. It needs a Frank Rijkaard to galvanise Barcelona, or a Rafael Benitez to inspire Liverpool to glory. Need more names? Sir Alex Ferguson, Brian Clough, Carlo Ancelotti, Marcelo Lippi…

Ganguly was blessed with John Wright, whose superior understanding of the game catapulted India to almost the pinnacle of glory. I don’t want to suggest that, like Mangal Pandey, Ganguly is an accidental hero. He has played a part. But when one considers the role played by others (Harbhajan Singh, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Irfan Pathan), Ganguly’s contribution gets dwarfed.

Outside of Kolkata, no one would gainsay that Wright’s influence was lesser than that of his captain. Chappell or Ganguly? Easier questions were never asked.

Civility

How many times has the Indian team been penalized for slow over-rates, excessive appealing, misconduct on the field and bringing the game to disrepute! This should be the only parameter in which Ganguly has led the team by example.

Most people misread his readiness for a slanging match as killer instinct and fiery temperament. I’m sure that even the Australians, bad-mouth badshahs that they are, fear Ganguly for this one reason (in any case, who would fear his batting?). Remember “Steve Waugh should mind his own business, which is Australian cricket”?

When Azharuddin was sacked from captaincy, there was some amount of sympathy for him. Yes, his form had been poor for long and there was a public outcry to show him the door. Same with Sachin Tendulkar. That was because they didn’t have big mouths, or at least, they had enough civility not to open it unnecessarily. If Ganguly is sacked, who will empathise with him, I wonder.

The time is now. The opportunity is here. Mr. Ganguly, don’t let them sack you and push you into ignominy. You’ve heard enough; you’ve done enough; but you’ve spoken more than is necessary. Please take a sabbatical, learn some batting, more importantly some civility, and come back to reclaim your place rightfully. After all, it is time you gave us another captain, but more so, one who can lead by example.

1 Comments:

Blogger airanand said...

excellent piece!!

And the last sentence sums up what Ganguly should really be doing insead of mouthing off after what he considers a "gem-of-an-inning" when really it was more of a scratchy patch up job!

9/19/2005 12:00:00 AM  

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