Q:With Greg Chappell around, what sort of inputs has he given to the team about playing in India?
Brett Lee: He has been brilliant. The knowledge that he has given us not only about the Indian players but also about the way India works
The bad news is that Chappell is supposed to go back to Australia after the Mohali test.
With Australia increasingly looking like India in 2005 with open displays of on-field dissension, under-performing superstars, a batting like a house-of-cards and bowling as toothless as the law in front of the Thackerays, I was hoping that Greg would stay on a bit longer, till the series was dried and dusted.
Now with Greg gone, Australia has the potential to jump back. [It has been reported that the Aussies approached an old friend of India to help them but he refused to sell his country out.]
I am kidding. I am not implying Australia’s rather insipid performance so far is at all Chappie’s fault. That would be giving the man too much credit. But you have to accept, the man does have the “Vishkanya” touch.
Which is why as an Indian fan, I just want to say “Thank you Greg”. You are henceforth forgiven for your Vision 2007.
Coming back to the Indians, we have a big, potentially contentious fork in the road. Should Anil Kumble, out of form and with his fitness under a cloud, be allowed to come back for the Delhi test just on the basis of past reputation/past performance and on the basis of him being the captain, in the process putting on the bench a bowler who had an exceptional debut and taking away leadership from someone who has been truly inspirational?
If you believe in Greg’s thesis of “Immediate performance and future potential counts and nothing else”, the principle that lay behind his Vision 2007, then the answer is no. If you believe in class, experience and historic performance, then your answer is yes.
People like the folks at Cricinfo, who had thrown their weight solidly behind the Chappell philosophy when Sourav was in the firing line, are now conflicted. And this conflict is reflected in a delightfully ambivalent article by Dileep Premchandran (I provide a link to the Google cache because the original article, at the time of writing this post, has been for some reason truncated) though it is quite evident that the sympathies of the author lie solidly (as do mine) with Kumble. If only he had the numbers on his side.
(Premchandan’s solution: “If there are absolutely no fitness clouds hovering over Kumble, and if the team management feels that they can get 50 typically probing overs out of him, then he must be allowed to decide his fate. It’s harsh on Mishra, but his time will come, almost certainly against the English.” In essence Kumble, as captain and as part of the team management, has to be given the final say on whether he should play.)
If Sourav was in a similar situation, there however would be no ambivalence, no deference to his judgement especially when there was a ready substitute available who had turned in a stellar performance the match before. The verdict would be immediate—off with his head. The reason is simple. If after being written off, Sourav keeps on performing poorly our expert can wag his finger and say “See I told you so. Selfish person.”. If however Sourav puts in a solid performance, even then the bases of the “expert” are covered. All he needs to do is to dust out the template article on Dada, the one that is kept in the second desk from the bottom: “Ganguly, once again, replies to his critics who had written him off, sending the message that he is not letting go that easily”. Of course in the middle of this, the expert would hope that readers have forgotten that among the “people who had written him off” is also the writer in question.
By this time, some people have already started thinking of the comment they are going to write. Why do I always brings Sourav Ganguly into everything? Forget him Greatbong, Ganguly is history. Get over it.
Here’s the deal. I have. I understand that Dada is gone. It saddens me no doubt but I recognize its inevitability both in terms of time as well in terms of politics. However the problem is while I am prepared to let Dada go, some of his chronic detractors are still busy pillorying him in the most unfair way. This makes it imperative for me to not stay silent.
Sample this piece of prose from a certain Mr. Menon (a regular contributor for a certain “home of cricket”) in Tehelka, that journal which upholds the highest standards of journalistic integrity. Titled “The Selfish Patriot”, it represents the worst kind of tarnishing of a great player’s service that is possible, with the piece essentially saying that Sourav Ganguly is defined by nothing other than his monstrous selfishness, (“the inability to see beyond the tip of his Mercedes”) and that he was a most ordinary sportsman whose legacy, if such a thing exists, stems from his simple-minded arrogance of equating the country’s welfare with his own. Of course in the course of the piece, there are references to the “baggage of colonialism” and snippets from Indian cricket history—the kind of garnishing that compulsorily need to be present in a cricket piece in order to label it “serious sports journalism”.
I have often wondered how the moment Dada comes into the mix, the tone of an article changes. Especially if it is written by certain journalists, whose motivations and reasons for the antipathy towards Ganguly have been well documented in this blog on many occasions.
Let me explain with an example.
Consider a player X. He is the captain of the One Day and Twenty20 teams and a superstar in his own right. However his performance in Tests has been less than stellar, which explains why he is not the Test captain. He complains of fatigue during a One Day tournament. Then he chooses to play a commercial non-official tournament of Twenty20s in which he makes millions but ends burning up even more so much so that he voluntarily opts out of a critical Test series, one in which the opposing team has a feared mystery bowler who may very well define the future of world cricket. He comes back against the world’s top team and then has a very ordinary first Test match. Then as a result of imjury to the captain, he takes over in the second Test. His batting undergoes a transformation and he blazes the team to a victory.
Now let us put X=Dhoni
This is how they shall write about him.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni knocked down the doors of greatness with a career-defining performance. While Sachin had softened the Australian attack, Dhoni beat them into submission with an innings of rare savagery. Defying convention and raising eyebrows when he sat out a Test series on the basis of “tiredness”, Dhoni represents the new brand of Youngistan players—confident, ready to take the world on its own terms, unconventional and unapologetic for their choices. As she showed today, captaincy brings out the best in him as he reveled in his new responsibility with a display that was as mature as it was devastating. The whole nation celebrated Diwali early as the streets of every city reverberated with “Action kar action, Dhoni kar jaisan, chauwa chakka maare hero jaisan, Dhoni Jharkhand hain bara saan re” [Video]”
Now let us put X=Ganguly
Bengal had not had much to celebrate recently. With Tatas moving away and with the state having lost of its relevance at the national level, it was left to its favorite son to bring a smile to the faces of Bengalis and rescue them from national obsolescence, albeit temporatily. Criticized for opting out of the Sri Lanka series in favor of a non-official tournament where he minted millions, Ganguly has remained unfazed at the criticism of having been unable to look beyond the Mercedes. After all, in Dada’s mind whatever is good for him is good for the country. Not being captain was not good for him. Being made the Test captain, after an injury to Kumble, however was. And since it was good for him, he made it good for the country. After Sachin had hammered the Aussies into submission, Ganguly bullied a cowering bowling side, in the process cementing his role as the leader. What must have hurt the statistically-obsessed Dada must have been his inability to reach his century even though, he ran out his partner Zaheer Khan while trying to farm the strike for precisely that purpose. Of course much of the damage was repaired in the second innings when he improved his average by staying not out.
For those of you who are, at this point of time, angry at the low blows at Dhoni, , let me make things very clear clear. I am making no innuendo about Dhoni, casting no doubt as to his motivations, his reason for calling Zaheer for a risky run and the reasons for his return of form. The reason I am making no allusion, besides the fact that I genuinely admire Dhoni and believe he will be as great if not a greater leader than Ganguly someday, is because “I have no proof”. All I know is that he played very well and led excellently. (I did not agree with his decision to skip the Lanka series however. But I am not going to ascribe motives to that action of his. )
My point is that just as innuendo against Dhoni (and for that matter any player) is infuriating, so is it when targeted at Ganguly. This includes aspersions about his patriotism, allegations of injury faking (something that Menon did not do) and accusations of internal politicking (something that Menon did) more so when no concrete proof is typically provided except for the quote from the “senior player” or the implied authority of the cricket writer’s “inside knowledge”.
So in conclusion—yes.
Dada may be history.
However we his fans are not.
So “mind it”.