Saurav and Greg — when all went wrong…

Enough reports and various versions of the face off between Greg Chappell and Saurav Ganguly have hit the headlines in the past three days. There’s no point in discussing who was right. Frankly, neither was.

Let’s first take Ganguly’s case. He’s had a reasonably horrendous run of form in the past year. Add to it, the media pressure, regular suspensions and India’s poor form as a whole. When Sachin was out of form, the team did not perform so badly, and it was ignored in the bigger scheme of things. The main problem here is Ganguly never got to spend time in the middle. Even when he played the minnows (whom we play so often in a season, and never in another) like BAN and ZIM, he never managed to get a 100, though he did play some reasonably good knocks. The 100 eluded him (as when he got that 98* in Kandy, a real captain’s knock after a string of horrendous decisions from Asoka de Silva) and pressure mounted, with all and sundry (as Sriraj said, incl. the selectors, who haven’t one tenth of Ganguly’s talent nor experience) exerting pressure on him. This was a series to which he set off with the probability of it being (still remains, considering his outburst) his last series. Now, he gets a 100, and people say it was slow, it was a selfish knock (yeah his 100 was deducted from the team’s score because it was a selfish knock) and boring (it almost lost India the test — winning ZIM in > 3 days is as good as losing). It is a crime to utilise a series against minnows to get yourself back to form — you go out there to braze them and walk back with the trophy in 2.5 days. To put things in perspective, if the great talented Yuvraj Singh’s wkt was followed by Ganguly’s, India may not have got much more than 450 and if the ZIM top order had survived the new ball, it would have taken the match into late day 4 or day 5. Ganguly’s innings, however it was played, did contribute to the victory. There was not even a mention of this is any article I read, save maybe a Cricinfo bulletin. This just goes to show the extent of media bias. (Media bias is no surprise. There are a group of people whom the media like to hate and so do the general public.) So what if he scores against the minnows? Losing to minnows is a greater disgrace. I’d take it if he scores only against the minnows (we have so many of them now) and comes up with a 144 against AUS at Brisbane once in two years!

Now, over to Chappell. Unless you are convinced that Saurav Ganguly is a totally spent force, who is no longer capable for international cricket, there is absolutely no bloody need to drop him against ZIM. Why, you want Kaif to come in score a 200 and feel good, is it? Can’t really see the logic. I can’t think of any team where the coach would have done this to the captain. Like it or not, you can’t dismiss the president overnight. You have to go through the arduous process of impeachment. Chappell must reconsider his high-handed behaviour. As a coach, you must be a good HRM, without that, all your cricketing acumen is of little use to the team.

Does there exist a solution? Well, that’s a big question. But, for the moment, if Sachin can return to the side (I think his presence always makes a difference to the atmosphere in the team) and Ganguly and Greg can apologise to each other and patch up and hopefully the team performs well, things can be forgotten and pushed to the back seat for quite some time, enough time to ensure things will work smoothly for Indian cricket. If Ganguly is indeed axed, that would be atrocious, and it would be an unceremonious exit for India’s most aggressive captain, one who revived Indian cricket from it’s deepest hole (match-fixing etc) and took it to great heights (yes, no captain does it without support from his team, but several captains have had great teams but Ganguly did make great use of his teams and nurtured the talent of Yuvi, Kaif, Bhajji, Sehwag. Even if these guys to forget him, we shouldn’t.)

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Two sloppy series

Back after a long time to the Cricket Blog. I guess time for cricket is best spent watching the Ashes! What a series it has been. It’s certainly edged out the India-Aus series of 2001 as one of the best fought series of this era. Wonder what things would have been if that Ind-Aus series was a five-matcher too!

Coming back to India’s performance in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, it’s been rather funny, the media reaction. An important point is that India played abysmally in Sri Lanka and almost decently in Zimbabwe. The team should have received much more flak for the final showing in SL than in ZIM. And to top things, rediff releases a sucked up report card emotionionally rating everybody as they please, without an objective viewpoint. Idiots! I thought Times of India is the only stupid newspaper and forum in the world, but fools seem to get a lot of good company these days!

A crucial thing which people keep overlooking is that we need a good team for the World Cup 2007. People like Venugopal Rao are certainly not more deserving than a Dinesh Mongia (who will soon get to play for England in place of Ian Bell (!) if he continues with his performances for Lancashire) or a Hemang Badani. Suresh Raina did not get a great deal to play but did himself and India a great disservice but dropping that sitter when Ganguly had gone in to change his contacts, only to discover that the match was but over, with 17 runs being plundered off Harbhajan’s over. At the moment, Ganguly has to remain captain by default. Rahul Dravid is a great cricketer, but a great captain is a different thing altogether. In the current era, gentlemen don’t get too far. I would even think of Sehwag as an option at a later stage. Aggression, and agression alone, which Dravid does lack in comparison to the rest can win you matches.

The selectors, (I delete expletives for the sake of decency) don’t do a thing good for the country and now want the head of all the players. I would not be surprised if they decide that Dravid is no good for ODIs and drop him, based on his current form! They are just unbelievably stupid.

Greg Chappell – I think he’s been a thorough disaster. He has not been able to handle the players well. You don’t publicise problems and create a fuss for everything. You do not go ahead and say in public that India deserves its 7th rank in ODIs. It’s not a question of creating hype, appearing disciplinarian and all that. It’s more about doing it. Show results. This is much the same team that Wright had managed till 3-4 months back. How come it’s come to perform much worse than before? I know Tendulkar’s not around and Dravid’s going through a bad patch, but Kaif’s going through a great period, Yuvraj has scored 2 hundreds in the last 7 innings and Irfan has been swinging the ball quite well. Dhoni has been another revelation. What’s the missing link?

Ganguly – the punching bag of Indian cricket. People in India have no greater amusement or happiness than deriding this man. He’s been through an awful patch, but even after a couple of decent knocks, people want to see him buried. Look at all those articles that have appeared in the recent past. For just the statistics, Hayden’s performed much worse than Ganguly in the last 10/13/15 tests (take any window). The call for Hayden’s head has just begun (even though he is just a regular batsman and not the captain), but Ganguly’s head’s been on the block since maybe the last 10 tests. That’s all the tolerance Indians have. Even someone as seasoned as Ravi Shastri had a jibe at Ganguly. This is not the way you treat someone who’s scored 10,000+ ODI runs and was once the best ODI batsman in the world. I don’t wish to go too far supporting Ganguly too. Now that the team’s away, it simplifies things a lot – the media pressure is much less significant and the team can concentrate better on its business.

A win against ZIM is a foregone conclusion, but it is important to have comprehensive wins, with players returning to good form. In any case, we’ve been performing quite well in the Test arena, despite some poor ODI results and we should notch up this overseas series win.

I was spurred to write this article after leading a whole lot of garbage on rediff. But some comments to that article were quite heartening. There are still level-headed people who follow the sport with more brains than the media. When you draw up an objective report, you must be objective. Like it or not, Ganguly was more useful in this series than Dravid, and Agarkar was the best bowler. Sehwag has had two good finals, but the team failed to take advantage of his blitzkreigs on both occassions. I’ll dwell no more on ratings and writing. The Men in Blue will let their bats speak.