As the cricket carnival approaches to its Mecca – Eden Gardens at Kolkata, anticipation and hope is something the city is living with. The Kolkattans, known for their undying passion for Indian sport, will surely be praying for their Prince – Sourav Ganguly, sometime soon. But, will their prayers be answered by all those concerned ? It is surely something worth digging into. The big question being asked by everyone around these days is Will Ganguly return or Should Ganguly return ? Its not an easy question for me to answer, as I try and put the logical reasons as to why he should or he should not be in this team, and the possible connotations of Team India and its life without and life beyond Dada.
Its been a sad month for sport, more precisely football and cricket – for it has lost two of its greatest leaders for their respective teams, coincidentally in similar fashion. Roy Keane, the talismanic midfielder, epitomized all that Manchester United was about, was sacked by the club for his unceremonious comments he made in public about Man United’s performance, while Indian cricket seems unforgiving about its once-most famous Dada – Sourav Ganguly, who was shown the door momentarily, after his public spat with coach Greg Chappell. Seeing all this fracas of leaders in sport, all one can say is disagreements do happen, but in these cases they have only extended themselves to downfalls of two idols. Aged, aggressive and arrogant – sums both these personalities very well, but in Ganguly’s case, would the Indian mindset forgive him for the Zimbabwe tour fall-out ? Or has Ganguly been the first of many victims of the Chappellian adage of “Perform or Perish” ? Such answers will take a while to find out.
How can Ganguly possibly return into the thick of action once again ? With age not being a criterion in India’s selection policy these days (inclusion of JP Yadav is a precedent), what seems to be against Ganguly is not his potential or ability but performance. Ganguly has really struggled ever since the short-ball rule came into the lawbook and demanded him to adapt to that delivery, which due to his capacity or lack of it, has surely ignored it for his record, which boasts of nearly 16,000 international runs. Very recently in the Times of India, there was a conversation Sourav has had with his daughter which goes “Sana : Bapi, tumi khelchhona keno (Father, why aren’t you playing?)” to which he replies “Dada : Aami bhalo khelte parina, tai (Only because I’m not such a good player)”. For Chappellians alike, this may seem like a candid confession to someone close, but that is certainly not reality. I am not such a big fan of his batsmanship of recent days, but I still do maintain that he has something more to contribute to Indian cricket. With immense competition in the team for every spot at the moment, Sourav will have to surely do more past his Duleep Trophy effort for East Zone of a pair to open a window of opportunity to try and scrape into the team. Let’s put it in a milder tone, all he needs to is to score runs and hope for the best, but at the same time, be prepared for the worst, as the Rainas and the Kaifs are on the run-hunt as motivated as Sourav himself is.
Somewhere down the entire dirty episode that brought the team closer, Sourav might just have gone a step further to drive home his point on Chappell, but the more experienced man that Greg is, he has taken a wider overview of things and quietly kept him out of his plans. To worsen his re-entry, a tennis elbow struck him, may be not for long, as he showed glimpses of him being back to his best in his 114 for East Zone against North Zone. And more recently, all Dada has done is to show desperation to get back into the team, by pointing fingers at his colleagues’ non-performance. Gradually, there seems to be a final tone of surrender coming through with statements like “I am ready to play anywhere”. It will only be left to see if he does manage a look-in by the selectors for the Sri Lanka test series. A man, who was a vivant member of the selection committee meetings himself, has to now await these meetings for a very different reason. Perhaps, somewhere one feels that the Indian crest in Ganguly’s shirt, is fading slowly.
As of now, it looks as if Souravda will spend more time with his family than Greg Chappell. From a more individual point of view, Ganguly must surely be hoping for an injury or a string of failures, something this Indian team has not yet resorted to. But, knowing Dada, all that he wants is Indian cricket moving ahead – with or without him. It may sound a rather naive statement, but that is what sums up his praise for Rahul Dravid’s newly found role as skipper. It will be a litmus test for India on the 25th at Ganguly territory i.e. Kolkata – which will surely miss its son, but an Indian victory at the Eden Gardens could prove a major consolation to Dada’s absence. The old cricket adage of “Its not over until the last ball is bowled” applies to Sourav Ganguly’s illustrious-yet-now-tainted career. The ball is in his court, the Chappellian ball – which has only three words to say – PERFORM or PERISH.