Vantage point

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I am utterly baffled over this unnecessary controversy that the Indian selectors have gotten themselves into. They have dropped Sourav Ganguly from the team for the third test match. Thus the bizarre drama, which started with his selection in the team for the first two tests as an "all rounder"(!!) has ended on a note that would actually earn Ganguly a lot of sympathy. In fact the latest SMS poll on Aaj-Tak shows that 75% respondents feel that the decision to drop him was wrong.

Let's go through this drama once more to see if we have it clear. Ganguly brings dirty linen out in the public and pretends to scrub it. Chappell writes a loooooong mail lambasting Ganguly in every possible way. BCCI, then run by Ganguly-supporters, engineers a "truce" between the two after a long hearing. Ganguly then gets injured and isn't picked for the one-day team. Dravid is named captain for 12 ODIs at a stretch, and Ganguly isn't picked in the ODI squad even when he regains fitness. Team wins 8 matches and loses 3. Dravid effectively full-time captain. One of the losses at Kolkatta, where crowd boos the Indian team. Ganguly's ODI career over for all practical purposes.

Meanwhile Sharad Pawar wins the BCCI election, and Ganguly-supporters lose. Expected turn of events - Ganguly will be dropped from the test squad, will announce retirement, take up commentary, etc.

Then comes the first twist in the tale. Selectors name Dravid as captain of the test squad, but pick Ganguly in the squad! What's more, only two seamers are picked, implying that Ganguly will be the third seamer if required.

First test rained out, Ganguly gets a low score, but then, so does the whole team.

Second test. Ganguly makes 40 runs at a very crucial stage in partnership with Tendulkar. In the process looks more composed than ever during the last year or so. Starts middling the ball. Second innings. Again, scores 39 important runs at a very crucial stage. Chappell says Ganguly will be "mentor" for the team(the rate at which Chappell is anointing mentors, they will soon outnumber the mentees).

Now if Ganguly's stock was listed on the BSE, I am sure its price would have gone up after this test match, as compared to before the first test. But for some utterly bizarre reason, the selectors dropped him from the squad for the third test. Why? Some spiel about letting Yuvraj settle down at No. 6 is given.

I wonder if the real reason was this - they knew that in cricketing terms, they had no reason to drop him before the first test. His last test innings was a hundred. He had also got good scores in the Duleep Trophy. So the selectors decided to pick him, and take a gamble. They bet he would fail, giving them a solid reason to drop him later. He didn't fail, but he didn't get a very big score either. Plus he seems to be in okayish touch. What if he gets a hundred in the enxt test? That would make it impossible to drop him. One gambled had already backfired. The selectors decided to axe him now, and take a limited "YOU DROPPED HIM EVEN AFTER HE SCORED 40???" type backlash rather than lose another gamble and face a "YOU DROPPED HIM AFTER HE SCORED A HUNDRED???" type.


I think this is a very shabby way to treat Ganguly. Granted he's made some mistakes in the last few months, but he has done enough for Indian cricket to go out with dignity. He played well in this test. If the selectors were so sure that he doesn't fit in the plan for the future, they should have told him so, and given him the option to declare his retirement. But they chose instead to humiliate him like this. I get the feeling that the next time Ganguly and Dhanraj Pillay run into each other, they will have a lot to talk about.