Ganguly v Chappell

Ganguly should quit gracefully

Nirmal Shekar

There is simply no room for Ganguly in Indian cricket's new scheme of things. The sooner he accepts this reality the better for him, writes Nirmal Shekar

If Sourav Ganguly thinks that he has scored a major point in a game of oneupmanship with Greg Chappell, the Indian skipper is sadly mistaken. For, if anybody came out of Bulawayo still looking valiant and every bit a gentleman, it was the former Australian batting great.

And, with each such flare-up it seems more and more unlikely that India's most successful Test captain would be able to go out on his own terms.

What Ganguly did at the press conference on the third day of the first Test against Zimbabwe is inexcusable. It was an unpardonable error of judgment from an emotional man with a highly combustible temperament, one whose shortcomings Team India has had to live with grudgingly in recent times because some of the most powerful men in Indian cricket continue to believe that the man from Kolkata is irreplaceable.

If the Indian captain said what he did because he thought he had created the right sort of platform for it with a century, then nothing can be more ludicrous than that. For, a laboured century against a bowling attack which talented schoolboy cricketers would merrily feast on means nothing. If anything, it was further proof of the fact that Ganguly's best days with the bat are well behind him.

A tragi-comic figure

The swaggering machismo of sunnier days now sits on Ganguly like a shredded, well-worn robe we can see through. There is a sure tragi-comic touch to the drama he contrives these days and the whingeing in Bulawayo was of a piece.

After leading India in a record 48 Tests, winning 20 of them — the most by anyone — Ganguly might have come to believe that he was invincible. But, then, sport is a strange business, a capricious business where invincibility is almost always a myth. And his ill-conceived, mistimed attack of India's new coach — a widely respected high-achiever in the world of cricket — is bound to backfire on Ganguly.

It was poorly planned. What is worse, it was poorly acted out. The captain looked no better than a cry baby — Ooooh, they tried to drop me, you know! — who wanted to win public sympathy with a sensational coup at a time when there was very little of it for him outside the BCCI offices.

Given his experience, Ganguly should have realised that there is nothing worse that a captain can do than reveal the gist of dressing-room discussions with the coach to the media in an era when a whiff of scandal is enough to whip up a media frenzy. If this wasn't a breach of confidentiality of the highest order, then what is?

It was not only a reflection of Ganguly's maturity — the lack of it, to be precise — but it also held a mirror to the man's emotional state at a time when he seems prepared to go to any length merely to hold on to his place in the team.

Chappell is a class act

For his part, Chappell came out of the episode a hero. He was very polite when answering difficult questions and made no attempt to get even with the Indian captain. In fact, after the match, the great Aussie even paid tribute to Ganguly's batting. He is as much a class act as a man as he was as a batsman.

Then again, given all that's happened in the weeks since he landed here to take over as coach, Chappell will need all his reserves — both in terms of patience and man-management skills — to survive in his job, the highest-profile coaching job in the world of cricket.

From the moment the choice of Chappell as coach was announced in Mumbai, Indian cricket has been sending out all the wrong signals. There was absolute bedlam at the venue where the announcement was made. If anything, things have deteriorated since.

On the day the team left for Zimbabwe, via Mumbai, Chappell arrived early in the day hoping to meet the team members and discuss a few things. He waited through breakfast, lunch and dinner in vain, before addressing a press conference without the captain, who turned up Maharajah style, at his own convenience!

The man who made the great Steve Waugh wait in the middle for the toss in Kolkata might have believed this was another useful mind-game that would send a subtle message to Chappell: Hey, I am the boss here.

Beginning of the end

But, then, we can see through Ganguly's pathetic games these days. They are desperate attempts to pluck the first available emotional chords by a man who knows that his days are numbered as a team leader and as a Test batsman, one who has so far successfully managed to keep out one of the most committed and talented cricketers in the country — Mohammed Kaif.

Quite apart from the injustice done to Kaif, the best fielder in the Indian side and one of its finest batsmen, it is now clear to every right thinking person that the future of Indian cricket will be determined by the Rahul Dravid-Greg Chappell partnership.

There is simply no room for Ganguly in the new scheme of things. And the sooner that he — and his powerful supporters in the Board — realises this, the greater the chances of a graceful exit for Indian cricket's most successful Test captain.

But it doesn't look as if that — a graceful exit — is going to happen. Ganguly's huge ego, his whole sense of self-esteem, is tied up with his role as the leader of the Indian cricket team. It is going to be very hard for him to accept the fact that his days on the centre-stage are over. But accept he has to, for his own good and for the future of a team that he has led with distinction for so long.


Ganguly must be backed or sacked

According to the Australians, Laxman is a magnificent batsman who rises to challenges and responds to responsibility

Peter Roebuck

A man must beware his own prejudices. Otherwise the same deed can be interpreted in different ways. V.V.S. Laxman and Sourav Ganguly scored centuries in the Test match in Bulawayo. A danger arises that they may provoke different reactions.

My opinion about Laxman has not changed from the day he belaboured the Australian attack in Sydney. In those days, the Australians could bowl. His name ought to be written down before the selectors start thinking about their side. It is a strength of the current Indian team that the same can be said about another seven or eight players. Over the last few seasons the Indian team has changed only at the fringes.

As far as the Australians are concerned, Laxman is a magnificent batsman who rises to challenges and responds to responsibility. Perhaps, it is part of the Australians' arrogance that players who succeed against them are highly regarded and those who fail are dismissed as duds. As a rule of thumb, though, it has worked well over the years.

Classy knocks

Laxman also played a decisive innings on the dust bowl in Wankhede and his contribution in Kolkata in 2001 wasn't too bad either! These were innings mighty of conception and superb of execution. Laxman is not some corporal running around cursing troops. He is a general, intent on winning wars. India might be able to find more reliable batsmen but none likelier to overcome powerful opponents.

Admittedly Laxman has limitations in limited-overs cricket but that's like claiming a singer is no good because he misses a few notes in his bath. If his fielding and running between the wickets are not up to scratch then omit him from the one-day side. It's not complicated. Justin Langer does not play in the Australian ODI outfit. If India has six better Test batsmen than the Hyderabadi then my name is Virender.

Laxman's hundred against Zimbabwe, though, proves precious little. Bulawayo is a batsman's pitch and the bowling reflected an ailing country's famed but fading hospitality. As it happens, I coached several of the Zimbabweans as schoolboys and a few of them seemed to have the wherewithal to play Test cricket.

Totally meaningless

Although Ganguly's hundred was scored under pressure, it was no more significant than Laxman's century or Dravid's 77. These efforts are collated by statisticians and recorded in the history books, but in cricketing terms they are almost entirely meaningless.

Ganguly occupied the crease, worked hard and batted with the utmost determination but any batsmen with a pinch of salt could have reached three figures in these circumstances.

Likewise, the cases for and against Ganguly remain untouched. India ought to be grateful for the contribution the Bengali has made to its cricket.

His deeds have been documented often enough, his fearlessness against all comers, the humorous way he upset the Australians, the magnificent captain's innings in Brisbane, his successful and drawn campaigns against Australia, and the way he took his side to the World Cup final. Assisted by young or intelligent players, he has helped to restore the reputation of Indian cricket and has given a nation the team it deserves.

However, that does not mean that he has the freedom of the city. Nothing lasts forever. Ganguly's failures against Australia and Pakistan are black marks against his name. His inability to inspire his players also counts against him.

He fields badly, runs poorly between the wickets and, crucially, puts his mid-off in the wrong place. His time is up. But it is gutless to ask him to stand down. Strong management is needed. Ganguly must be backed or sacked.


In the middle, Ganguly plays a straight bat
Grinds out patient century, bowlers put India on verge of victory
Harsha Bhogle Harsha BhogleIn Bulawayo

Like a monk, Sourav Ganguly forsook all worldly pleasures. When the spinners dropped the ball invitingly towards him, he nudged and patted and trotted gently between wickets. When they bowled full tosses he caressed them, mindful of the fact that he might hurt the leather on the ball.

If Gavin Ewing and Keith Dabengwa had been told of the magnificence of Ganguly’s batting against spin, they were entitled to believe an impostor was in their midst.

It wasn’t, of course. It was merely Ganguly wearing a mask, one that let him peer at the world but shut everything else. He wanted that hundred, as much to prove to the world that he was around as to prove to himself that he had a future in this game. And his innings for a six-hour exercise in self-denial.

In all fairness, Zimbabwe had laid out a buffet for him. He merely nibbled at the lettuce. He was capable of demolishing the buffet, but this was not the day for it.

This wasn’t his best hundred but one that I suspect will give him some satisfaction. Stonewallers pride themselves on the big hit, the swashbucklers tend to remember the one occasion they blocked. And so it might be with Ganguly. Indeed, as the century approached, he grew even more cautious, fearful that even one indulgence might break his s‚ance. A few more maiden overs were played out, the perfect ball was sought, the right time awaited.

When the century did eventually come, there wasn’t the usual flamboyant celebration, no punching the air for he was aware that this wasn’t one of those innings. Immediately thereafter, he advanced down the wicket to Gavin Ewing, broke the spell of denial and hit the ball down the throat of deep mid-off.

He had no more than a moment to savour for happiness had been delivered and snatched in an instant. It is that kind of phase in Ganguly’s life. A poetic end to a prosaic innings.

But hopefully this will re-ignite some self-belief in Ganguly. He felt that he had a message to deliver and one must hope that he believes he has done that for his redemption will come from strokeplay not denial. This was a century for him, not one aimed at his detractors. It cannot be so.

And as if to underline the mediocrity of the Zimbabwe spinners, Harbhajan Singh immediately launched into a merry assault. He attacked the spinners and showed that they had no fall back option. And he showed up something that Ganguly knows very well; that when the mind is free, the feet become free as well. It was wonderful to watch.

Just as wonderful was the manner in which India attacked. Pathan swung the ball wickedly in and the manner in which he set up his victims showed maturity. A bouncer to push the batsman onto the back foot, then an away swinger and the killer ball, the perfectly pitched inswinger.

This has been an all-rounder’s performance for his half century was not a slapdash, tail-ender’s jolly slog. He timed the ball well, picked the gaps, ran the singles and was prepared to wait. One day he will do this against better opposition.

And spare a thought for Tatenda Taibu. He batted three and a half hours for 71, got ten minutes to swap one pair of pads and gloves for another and kept wickets for 152 overs. Thoughts of putting his feet up might have crossed his mind but but for him such thoughts must be fleeting.

In the fourth over he was back in again, tired in mind and body but dignified as usual. He is Zimbabwe’s best player and essential to their survival in this league.


The season of discontent

Anand Vasu

September 16, 2005

"I can tell you that before this match I was asked to step down as captain. So it was an extra determination that I found," said India's captain, in the middle of a Test match. He put a century on the board - a painstaking and joyless one - against the worst bowling attack in the world, in perfect batting conditions, and chose to make a statement that will rock the very foundations on which spirit and togetherness are built in a team of sportsmen.

People who have followed Sourav Ganguly's moves over the years will know that he is not one who says things without knowing their ramifications. He knows exactly who his constituency is, and how and when to play to the gallery. And that is a quality a leader of men can do with. But he also has powerful backers both in the Indian board and in the media - and knows how to use them. Even by his standards, though, this latest outburst is startling.

There have been murmurs and whispers about cliques in the Indian team, about clashes of personality that have threatened to overshadow the team's main objectives. Many people have brushed these away, pretending they are things the media invents, or spins. Each time Ganguly says, "I have no problem playing under anyone," the media is taken to task for propagating salacious rumours about the team.

In that sense, Ganguly has overplayed his cards here. It is widely believed, accurately or otherwise, that his comments were targeted at Greg Chappell, the coach. If this is true, then Indian cricket has reached an unworkable situation. The captain and coach need to work closely together, buy into a united vision for the long-term well-being of the team, and pull together. Situations like this rarely improve. When you want to work something out, you talk to the person you have a problem with; when you talk to the rest of the world, you're drawing battle lines.

And if indeed this is Ganguly's way of saying, "I know people want me out, but I won't take a backward step", it can only end with him, or Chappell, being taken out of the equation. And things have reached such a stage that the only way forward is for the two to part ways. Some marriages just don't work, some lose their lustre over the years; this is one that is over before the honeymoon period and it¹s now official. No matter how much the cast in this Kafka-esque play deny it, Team India, is now merely a convenient way for unimaginative cola companies to brand "the boys." There's too much manoeuvring, too much manipulation, too much insecurity in this team.

In recent days, cricketers who normally let bags of wickets or wristy hundreds do the talking, have come out with strong statements that could disrupt the harmony. That was a sure sign that all is not well within the camp. But now, we have gone beyond looking for signs. Repeated attempts to contact Ganguly in Zimbabwe for a clarification failed, but one can only go by what is out there, in the absence of anything to the contrary.

What's most worrying is the timing of Ganguly's statements. If indeed he was asked to step down - by a person or persons he refuses to name - before the start of the game, why did he wait till the third day to go public? Does he actually believe that 101 off 262 balls, against the likes of Keith Dabengwa and Gavin Ewing, holing out to mid-off the very next ball after reaching three figures, gives him the moral high ground to take on his critics? Prince of Calcutta, we've come to expect more of you. Don't sell yourself so short. And if you must, don't drag the team down with you.


What really happened between Chappell and Ganguly?

Cricinfo staff

September 17, 2005

Greg Chappell's suggestion that Sourav Ganguly should step down from the captaincy was an honest opinion expressed during mutual discussions, and not an open demand as it has come to being portrayed after Ganguly made it public at press conference during the first Test between India and Zimbabwe.

In fact, this was a matter strictly between the captain and coach till the day before the Bulawayo Test when Ganguly chose to involve Rahul Dravid, the vice-captain, and Amitabh Chowdhary, the administrative manager. Cricinfo has spoken to a few sources close to the Indian team to piece together the full story.

Chappell's suggestion was neither abrupt nor out of the blue, but a result of several discussions over the composition of the team and planning for the future. Chappell was a strong proponent of picking the best possible XI, and during one of the frank discussions between coach and captain, he suggested that India would be better served if Ganguly focused on getting his batting organised by stepping down from captaincy.

Perhaps taken by surprise, Ganguly asked Chappell if he was serious. Chappell said that if Ganguly was interested in an honest opinion, then he had it. The ideal Indian Test middle-order, according to Chappell, was Dravid, Laxman, Yuvraj and Kaif. This discussion took place in Mutare, where India were playing a warm-up game.

The matter of team selection came up again before the first Test. Mohammed Kaif, who had looked India's best batsman in the triangular one-day series that preceded the Test, was included in the XII and when it came to choosing between him and Yuvraj Singh, another batsman who had done well in the one-dayers, Ganguly asked Chappell for his preference. Chappell reiterated that he should pick the best XI and when Ganguly pushed him for a frank opinion, Chappell said that left to him, he would have them both in the team ahead of Ganguly.

Ganguly once again asked if Chappell was serious and Chappell replied that he should consider the long-term future of Indian cricket and think about his legacy rather than his immediate future. He added that it was a decision that he should take himself, and if and when he chose to step down, he should do so with good grace.

Ganguly then stormed off to the dressing-room, summoned Dravid and Chowdhary and informed them that he was packing his bags and leaving because Chappell didn't want him in the team. Chowdhary then asked Chappell to join in and it was decided that the captain leaving in the middle of a tour would be disastrous. Ganguly stayed on, but the matter didn't stay inside the dressing-room.

"By choosing to go public, Sourav has drawn the battle lines," said a source close to team. "It's now difficult to see how they can both work together. The Indian board will now have to choose between one of them."

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