Consistently Inconsistent Performance
Indian Players And Media Taking Puzzling U
By S Zeyaur Rahman
some phenomenon assumes gigantic proportions and the people associated
with it react hysterically, it is nearly impossible to take a rational
stand on the matter. Cricket in India can be qualified with both
these virtues and I for one do not expect many people to have logically
verifiable opinions on the affairs of the team. With the benefit of
hindsight on the fortunes of Indian cricket in the last ten months, one
has seen opinions swinging from one end to another. A series of U turns,
which effectively means a succession of round abouts, needless to say
contradictory and diametrically opposite views on the one and same
topic, by the same people.
does not need to go much in details. A look at the various opinion polls
in any of the leading newspapers or any of the countless websites will
vouch for the statement. The metamorphosis is sometimes within the
series, some people have patience enough to watch an entire series
before doing a somersault. Nonetheless, I have failed to find a single
person, including many cricket pundits who have shown some resemblance
to a virtue called consistency while expressing their views.
latest development is the loss in Sri Lanka, which happens to be our
first in 16 years. It is a different fact that we have played very less
test cricket with Sri Lanka in the past twenty years. It was India’s
third tour to the Emerald Isle of which they have lost two and was
victorious under Azharuddin (the famous out of home victory). With the
conclusion of the series the cacophony in the media has already started
and one can hear horse cries for scapegoats for the debacle and
me contend the prevailing opinion. India played a triangular series in
which it almost miraculously but not accidentally marched into the
finals. Well, we lost the finals rather comprehensively. All one needs
to do is to read the reports after India’s third consecutive defeat.
Doomsday never appeared nearer for Indian cricket. After a gap of seven
days, on the eve of the finals, the papers painted a rosy picture of a
renaissance, nay resurrection of Indian cricket. History does follow a
pattern, immediately after the crucifixion there has to be a revival.
That has been happening all too often. We live in fast times really!
loss at Galle was a bitter pill to swallow. Within four days and without
much resistance or any credible performance etc. That was once again the
nadir, things were all over gray, cricketers were villains. A week later
after the comprehensive victory at Kandy, love was back in air. Another
week, another loss and you know how we are reacting. Is there any valid
and genuine reason for us to behave the way we have been doing? I for
one cannot think of any.
Sri Lanka tour is no exception at all. As I have already mentioned that
this senseless swinging from one end to another has been going on for
almost a year. Remember the Mumbai test and India’s loss there and
compare it with the aftermath of Kolkata and Chennai. Were not they the
same people but how radically opposite? Remember Bulawayo victory and
Harare loss, recall six consecutive victories in the tri series and the
loss in the finals. Is there a single instance that anyone remained
so has been the team, somehow it has developed a unique ability to shock
one and all with the most unexpected of all performances. Consistency
was never a strong point with India, but neither was such a consistent
inconsistency its hallmark. The champions one day are the vanquished the
next day, and it is getting harder to explain the mysterious mechanism
behind it. But the point that I want to make is that the Indian team has
in no way disgraced itself. In fact it has performed rather credibly
given the constraints it was playing under.
display in test series has left a lot to be desired. Not a single
batsman got to the three figure mark and that explains the two losses to
a great extent. Not for once did India touch the 400 mark. In fact it
was bowled out for less than 250 on four of the six occasions. That is
certainly not the way to win test matches. The absence of key players
can be taken into account while explaining a collective act, like losing
a match, but the absence of individual brilliance cannot be explained
away. The team did not post 500 runs total might be explained by the
absence of Tendulkar or Laxman, but one cannot say that Dravid or
Ganguly could not make centuries because Tendulkar and Laxman are not
batting did look out of depth and certainly not threatening enough.
Ironically enough both the openers performed rather well but that was
never enough for a big total. Test cricket cannot be played on the
strength of good 50s and 40s. Someone needs to play a long innings,
dropping the anchor and navigating the totals to safe shores. That did
not happen once.
Kandy test was won by the bowlers. They dismissed Sri Lanka cheaply in
both the innings and had the task cut out for the batsmen. Still
the credibility of Indian batsmen under pressure and on foreign pitches
has been so bad that one feels like thanking them for rising to the
occasion and doing what they should be doing day in and day out. I mean
that is why they are there and it is an apt reflection of things that
the execution of a task is passed off as achievement.
failure of the juniors to come up with something big has been the
biggest disappointment of the tour. Both Badani and Kaif did not do
anything special in the six innings to prove that they deserve a place
in ten side. Compare that with Australia, where one is in a perpetual
fix while selecting the final eleven. Now who would think twice before
handing out eviction notice to Kaif if not Badani?
series was billed as a contest for the slot of the best off spinners in
the world. It has been a total one sided contest. Muralitharan has amply
demonstrated that he is light years ahead of the young sardar, who did
not impress once. It was surprising to see Muralitharan extracting the
kind of turn and bagging wickets in handful on ten same track where
Harbhajan looked so plebian. And mind you that the tracks were not like
Sabina Park or Port Elizabeth. The pitches were friendlier to the fast
bowlers than they are expected to be in the subcontinent, but did not
Murali weave magic on them. The bowlers, which won the test for India,
were Prasad and Zaheer Khan, and even Srinath managed five wickets in
the only innings that he bowled.
can we forget the captain when we are talking of the debacle. Especially
one like Ganguly who is so 'popula'’ with everybody. We can always
blame him for the Orissa cyclone or the Gujarat earthquake (so what if
he was not the captain then!). Ganguly has to have a hand in anything
that goes wrong anywhere. He has been grossly sinned against it is to
his credit that he has dealt with the tirade in such a dignified manner
(though I would have preferred him to be savage to the bowlers). For a
change one could read the current issue of a leading weekly and I would
recommend it strongly to everyone. Poor man was the Maharaja one day and
'gangu teli'’ the other day.
form with the bat is indeed a cause of worry but like his so many
illustrious predecessors he is bound to come out of it. We can hardly
afford to be so generous and tolerant these days, but that is a reality.
Combined with the fact that there seems to be no other feasible
alternative. We have seen Tendulkar twice and neither is he very keen on
the job. And lets not tamper with Dravid’s equilibrium at the moment.
As for the rest, a second glance is not at all necessary.
would be really unfortunate if Ganguly loses captaincy and an outright
crime if he is sacked from the team altogether. He has done an excellent
job getting the kind of results from a de facto B team. He has won 6 of
the 13 test matches and got India in seven eight of eight finals. Even
Steve Waugh would be proud of such a record, though he would have loved
to lay his hands on the trophy that has always eluded Ganguly. At the
moment that we can wish for his return to form and also the return of
key players which will no doubt boost the strength the team manifold.
Beginning On The
Ganguly Hoping For Calcutta Coup
By S Zeyaur Rahman
a test series on a losing note has been the bane of Indian cricket for the
greater part of the decade. And if the series happened to be an overseas
one, then it was almost mandatory. The Indian cricketers know the best how
difficult it is to bounce back in a series. They have been through to it
so many times but still they do not seem to be learning. Instead of
putting their heart and soul in the opening game they have been extremely
casual in the first test. It was a lackluster and uninspiring performance
in ten first tests and the sooner it is forgotten the better it is.
One can imagine the kind of cricket played by Indians in the match. They
came up with their lowest score against Sri Lanka in the first innings. As
if unsatisfied by the feat, they got out for even a lower score in the
second innings. This is not the kind of performance that one would expect
from any test team. No wonder that Sri Lanka found its first victory over
India at after a gap of 16 years.
Statistics apart, the display by Indians was pathetic indeed. It is indeed
difficult to ascertain what exactly was playing in their minds that they
came up with such dismal scores. The pitch was rumored to be a green top
triggering much speculation given India's vulnerability on grass.
The openers had doggedly hung around to provide a very steady start.
One would have imagined the danger to be over. But the ever famous and
ever fragile middle order did India in once again.
Fernando and Co is a no doubt genuine fast bowler, bowling with a lot of
pace and aggression. It is their sustained hostility that had the Indians
on the mat. But one would not have expected world-class batsmen to cave in
as if they were facing the most dangerous attack. All said and done, the
Lankan bowlers are rookies. They might be greats tomorrow, but tomorrow
they stand nowhere near the likes of McGrath or Donald. It is just no
business of the batsmen to be unable to face an attack that is at the most
effective. It was sheer recklessness that got them out. Remember Badani
slashing outside the stump when the side is half bundled for next to
I would have loved to maintain that despite Tendulkar India could put up a
fight. The way they bounced back in the tri series was heartening. I feel
that what India really missed in the test was an anchor and Tendulkar even
at his best is never an anchor. He is not born to build platforms for
others. He would rather have the stage to himself and the crowds or may be
even cricket itself is much the better for it. India needed Dravid to play
a long innings. But what can he do alone as he did in the second innings.
It is for the second time on the tour that Dravid has run out of partners.
It is here that the role of someone like Laxman becomes remely important
and India is missing him sorely.
The manner of dismissals in the second innings was no better except the
fact that it can be attributed to the magic of Muralitharan. He is a
master bowler and on any day he can have any team on its knees. It is not
for nothing that he has an average haul of more than 6 wickets per match,
better than many of the greatest bowlers to have played the game and it is
getting even better. But once again India has to device some strategy to
counter his spin or the series is as good as over. Imagine Indian batsmen
succumbing to spin bowling. Gone are the days that Indian batsmen used to
counter spin bowling with extreme ease and even contempt.
It is indeed difficult to comeback in a test match after puttying up 187
runs on the board. One can do that only with an assortment of highly
accomplished bowlers, which India does not have at the moment. Srinath is
no doubt effective and to his credit he got five wickets despite bowling
with a broken hand. Prasad was disappointing and Zaheer Khan can perform
much better. It is Harbhajan's failure that cost India dear. The series
was billed as the contest between the two best off spinners on the world.
No one is in any doubt after watching the first match.
One must also remember that the injury list is taking a heavy toll on the
outcome. We are without our mainstays in both the departments. No body
would say that India couldn’t lose with Tendulkar and Kumble around. But
it does matter a lot to miss the top guns. Not only that we are also
deprived of Laxman and Nehra, the two most improved players on the
circuit. As luck has it we will be without Srinath for the rest of the
Ganguly could be forgiven for doubting some celestial conspiracy against
him. One has to keep in mind that he has not leaded a full strength Indian
side for almost a year. He has been quick to point out to the fact. But
how does he explain his inability to get a 50plus score in the last twelve
innings. Bad patches are a part of the game, but if Ganguly's bad patches
are too prolonged then he himself will not be a part of the game for too
long. Yes Ganguly is in the line of fire and he has to save his captaincy
and may be even his place in the team. It is unduly harsh on a person. But
this is a part of the game and he has to live with it.
I am also reminded of the fact that no other Indian team has shown a flair
for bouncing back and writing the crickets off. This is a happy
development. All that we can do is to keep the fingers crossed for an
encore. And all that Ganguly needs to whisper in his team mate's ears is,
Mirror On The Wall
Bradman's Reply To Wisden
By S Zeyaur Rahman
times cricket pundits have ritualistically indulged in this exercise. And
of course it is pretty natural for us to have a curiosity of knowing the
best among the greatest of the game. But each time the effort gets mired
in unending controversy.
The release of the much talked about Bradman Eleven has stirred up the
hornet's nets once again. What makes the timing of the release interesting
is the fact that it is very close on the heels of the Wisden 100 great
innings list, which raised a big storm and is yet to die down.
Nobody takes any opinion seriously unless it has the potential to
influence people. And as luck has it, Wisden is nothing short of the Bible
of cricket and Bradman has no shorter stature than a God of the game. That
partially explains the tremendous response hat these lists have generated.
Lets proceed step wise. One controversy at a time! That is more than we
can tackle. The Wisden list created a furore in India primarily because it
did not include any innings by Sachin Tendulkar. That was the main thrust
of the arguments in its criticism against Wisden. There was no honest
analysis done and we reacted emotionally. It does not mean that everything
was okay with the list, but neither was it the best way to react to it.
The best way to react would be to make a list of all those innings, which
should have found a place in the list ahead of those included. Then after
taking a stand one should have stood by it. In case there is a
disagreement on the priority order, one could have suggested the changes.
That is called taking a stand on the issue. Nobody has cared to do that
because it is always easier to criticize rather than face the music for
oneself. I am aware that one can find umpteen faults with the Wisden list.
But I am sure that any other list, published by any other person or
institution will fare no better, only the nature of criticism will differ,
depending upon the regions of 'victims'.
We exist in a divided world, a polarized world. And we do not have too
poles only. Our affinities and repulsions are of many hues and shades,
colour, nationality, groups, lobbies etc. Depending upon the current
alignment, the reactions are constructed. The West Indies fore example will
vote with Asia when the issue has a racial tinge to it and with Australia
when the question deals with a gradation of teams.
I for example do not think that there could be many changes in the list
though the order could be tarried with a little. Nor do I endorse it
categorically. As far as Sachin Tendulkar is concerned the Chennai innings
has to be there at any cost. But if I were to insist on the hundreds at
Perth or Old Trafford, it would come at a cost of far more deserving
Cricket is not a poor game. It has a rich history and has seen brilliant
feats and achievers. So when one has to face so much opposition making a
list of hundred then the one attempting a list of eleven has to be very
brave. It is simply impossible to satisfy one and all.
One has to read the Don's list in light of his views published just a day
before. He has tried to explain the reasons of his choice as well. It is
here that he disappoints one and all because his views and selections are
A left-right combination of openers has Arthur Morris and Barry Richards.
Well Richards' is an emotional selection like many others, to which I will
return to a little later in the team. And for Morris it is a partisan
decision. Bradman has shown undue favour to his team members, not as an
Australian but as a person who had seen them from very close quarters.
That explains five of them from 1948 Australian team alone making it to
the list. Well as for alternatives, Gavaskar is the first name that comes
to mind but one has to be blind to overlook Sir Len Hutton completely.
Bradman at three is unquestionable. Then we have Tendulkar at four that is
surprising indeed. Sachin is the only player who is still in business,
which makes matters a little difficult. He may surpass one and all or he
could lose a few inches of his reputation through subsequent performances.
It would have been safer to include Viv Richards here, though to quote
Bradman, 'history could prove me wrong here'.
Sobers can walk in the side on the strength of his batting alone. His
abilities as a spinner making the task all the more easier. Nothing could
be more absurd than the selection of the wicket keeper. To put it plainly,
Don Tallon does not fall in the same league as Rodney Marsh, Allan Knott
or even Ian Healey. Any of these would be far more deserving selection.
Three fast bowlers in Lillee, Lindwall and Bedser. Well where do the great
Windies go boasting a great lineage of fast bowlers? None of them make the
grade nor does Hadlee. Two leg spinners are never good for a variety and
certainly a luxury when u already have Sobers in the side. That place has
to go to an extra batsman and there can be no better option than the
inclusion of Richards, or Jack Hobbs if we decide to keep Tendulkar out.
When a great like Wolly Hammond can be the 12th man, then why not
Reversal Of Roles Across The Ocean
Sri Lanka Hoping To Break The Jinx
By S Zeyaur Rahman
After a rather interesting triangular series, the focus in the Emerald
Island is shifting to the more serious stuff. India and Sri Lanka are all
set to lock horns in a three test series. Gone are the days when the
contests with Sri Lanka were a walkover. After the World Cup triumph in
1996 Sri Lanka has emerged as a force to reckon with and at home turf, it
has beaten every single team, be it the invincible Aussies or the mighty
Despite being neighbours, India and Sri Lanka do not share very old or
deep bonds as far as Test cricket is concerned. India has played a big
brother attitude so far, obliging the former Test minnows with a trip or
two every now and then. But it is only now that we have started to take
Sri Lankan cricket seriously and it reflects in the overall attitude.
Needless to say that the Lankan tigers have earned this respect by the
sweat of the brow.
The statistics of the Indo-Lankan tests show a very lopsided picture. In
fact nothing could be further from reality. India leads its rivals 7-1.
That solitary victory has a curious history of its own. The first test
between India and Sri Lanka had ended in a draw. In the next series Sri
Lanka was the one to draw the first blood and India managed to open its
account much later. That Sri Lankan victory came in 1985-86 and in the
next 17 years Sri Lanka has not managed to win a single test against
India has been victorious in four series against Sri Lanka, three of them
on the trot under Azharuddin. In fact Azhar created a World Record of
sorts when India won all the three tests of the series by innings margin.
Also it was under Azhar that India recorded its first overseas victory
after the English tour of 1986.
The next three series went undecided but to be true to the Lankans, they
have dominated the scene. No one can forget the Colombo test. In which
Jayasuriya (340) and Mahanama (225) lead the run feast to produce a record
score of 952. In the bowling department Murali has been more than a match
for Kumble, stealing the thunder from right under his nose.
That as they say is history. On to the present, India looks a beleaguered
side struggling to regain its foothold after a series of upsets in the
recent past. The team was relatively new and is further depleted by the
absence of its top guns, both in the bowling and the batting department.
Tendulkar's injury might as well be the most talked about ailment on the
subcontinent. Needless to say that India will miss him sorely. He has been
the main stay of our batting and his young shoulders have carried the huge
burden for 84 matches on the trot before faltering owing to the demands of
the game on his body. The man who had put forward his claim on the
Tendulkar monopoly is also out. Laxman had proved to be a cushion for the
batting lineup and in very short time provided an extra depth to the
India has been without Kumble for most part of the year and have almost
got used to it. The credit for that indeed goes to Harbhajan Singh, who
rushed in to fill that vacuum. But Harbhajan does not have a decent back
up, with all respect due to Rahul Sanghvi. The chief architects of Indian
victories in the recent past had been Kumble and Tendulkar and it remains
to be seen how India copes up without their most potent weapons.
The list of injuries does not end here. The latest talent to emerge out of
the Indian system was Ashish Nehra. He had performed wonderfully well on
the Zimbabwe tour and was the pick of the bowlers in the earlier part of
the triangular tournament. He was an ideal partner for Zaheer Khan and now
the big-hearted lad from Baroda might find himself waging a lonely battle.
The prospects are not so bleak altogether. We still have two renowned
batsmen in Dravid and Ganguly. Well Ganguly has to strike back form
someday and there could not be a better occasion than this one. It would
be a real motivation for the youngsters waiting in the wings.
That reminds us of the silver lining. India does have a bunch of talented
players waiting for their place under the sun. It will be a tough
initiation for Mongia, Kaif and Badani and at the moment all our hopes
wrest on them. If they deliver, there is no doubt that we would be able to
floor the Lankans in their own den. Nobody denies the talent that they
possess. But now it is time for them to display the right kind of
temperament and turn the tides for India.
We cannot totally discount the old warhorses Srinath and Prasad who will
be bowling in tandem once again. Ironically enough they too have a
fantastic opportunity to remind all of us that they are not spent forces
and still have the firs to win games for the side. If the constitution of
the Lankan side is any indication, we can expect seamer friendly pitches
and here the experience of the two will be a definite edge for India.
On the other hand the Lankan side is not facing any of these problems. In
fact they are overflowing with options so much so that they could afford
to leave out a seasoned campaigner like De Silva, who had been India's
nemesis in the past. Now the mantle has rightly passed on to Jayasuriya
and he has brilliantly groomed an entire army to foil the plans of
Indians. The youngsters in the Lankan side are coming of age and have
begun to deliver.
Thew bowling department has suddenly started to look lethal. With five
pace bowlers and a match winner like Muralitharan, they have little cause
of concern. The added home advantage is for everyone to see and it is a
golden chance for Sri Lanka to break the jinx.
Over all it does appear to be reversal of roles. It is India, which finds
itself on the defensive. But as the saying goes, when the going gets
tough, tough gets going. With back towards the wall, we hope that India
will muster enough to corner an upbeat side.
Faltering At The
Strange Case Of Consistency
By S Zeyaur
Oh yes! It happened yet again. Our worst fears came true one more time no
matter how much we hoped for the contrary. It cannot possibly happen yet
again. It has to come to an end sooner than later. This is how we had
tried to be optimistic before the finals of the Coca Cola Cup against Sri
Lanka. But all in vain as the familiar script was enacted yet again and
India ended on the losing side.
Eight consecutive losses in the finals. That must be a record of sorts. It
also defies all cricket logic. I mean if the team is good enough to make a
place in the finals it should be able to win it as well. At least on some
of the occasions if not always. But it has been extremely agonizing to see
India go down in one final after another, after they have worked their way
up to the title round.
It really makes us sit up and question the questionable performance. Wins
and losses are of course the part of the game. But here we are left with a
string of losses. These are no ordinary losses. These eight losses have
undone and negated the 24 victories that have gone behind them. These are
the losses in the finals of the tournaments. It is in fact a lucky
coincidence for Ganguly and his men that these losses have come at a time
when the match-fixing crisis has almost blown over. Imagine eight final
losses at the same time last year; it would have been curtains for
Ganguly, his men and cricket in India.
That does not mean that the entire nation is delighted to experience its
third drought year in terms of titles. The fact that India once held the
record for the highest number of titles in a single year does not allow
the hard dose to sink in. The amazement is all the more exalted when we
are told to believe that this is one of the best sides, which at times
appears true as well. Then what is it that has kept us waiting for a
Come to think of it. It is a strange situation. Strange in the sense that
it is irrational and yet frequent. One cannot explain it on any normal
premises but it keeps on happening with alarming in fact sickening
regularity. The nearest parallel that I can find for this phenomenon is
India's string of losses to Pakistan at Sharjah, Friday or no Friday. Well
some of them attribute it to be a psychological case in which our friends
from across the border have an upper hand.
Of these eight finals India has lost to Pakistan only once. We have
conceded finals to New Zealand and West Indies, which are second rung
sides (and we do not have any border disputes with them either). Sri Lanka
has emerged as our chief tormentor humiliating us on three occasions.
Ganguly has admitted that Jayasuriya has made a habit of winning finals
for Sri Lanka. What Ganguly forgets is that India has not specifically
targeted Jayasuriya’s wicket the way Australia zeroes on to Tendulkar or
Atherton or Lara. Much worse Jayasuriya has been let off on each of these
three occasions early in the innings and he went on to post a huge score
for his side.
We are also reminded of another aspect of the side. It is one of the
youngest, fittest and one of the most dynamic sides to have turned out of
India. We have a bunch of seasoned campaigners, who are not on the other
side of 30, and a group of talented youngsters raring to go. The adrenalin
should have been higher than normal and this side should have risen to
every occasion and performed feats unheard of. Quite the contrary, we have
been let down on every single occasion. If a young and fit side cannot do
that then which side can?
Giving surprise results is a habit with this team. They devoured the top
sides on their way to the finals in the mini World Cup at a time when they
never had a ghost of a chance. And then they bungled it against a moderate
New Zealand side. They did the unthinkable by beating the Invincibles.
When one had thought that a victory on the foreign soil was ours, they
lost within four days. What followed was a string of comprehensive
victories in the triangular series and the disappointing loss in the
finals. India had three losses in three games before essaying a wonderful
turnaround. They appeared to be peaking at the right time but the final
was damp squib.
One cannot question the potential of the team. This team has clicked
repeatedly both in individual and collective terms. Each and every one of
them has the potential to be the match winner on any given day and they
have displayed it on numerous occasions. Be it Laxman, Sehwag, Sodhi,
Yuvraj, Badani, Zaheer, Nehra or Harbhajan. We are fortunate to have aside
that will serve us well for a long time to come. But the way it has been
repeatedly succumbing under pressure is a cause for concern. Superiority
has to be asserted and displayed as often as possible and certainly at all
costs on a big occasion. This is the mantra that the team has to learn.
Of course we can all heave a sigh of relief that this is not a one-man
team. We all knew that it was a myth, prolonged for a little too long,
simply because nobody broke the myth. A lot of hullabaloo was made of
Sachin's absence and these soothsayers were gloating when we lost three
games on the trot, posting extremely mediocre totals. But the very same
set of people were running for cover, when Laxman, Yuvraj and Sehwag took
turns to come out blazing and scorching the opposition.
Last but not the least. The captaincy issue is once again raising its
head. Earlier there was the tag of non performance of the team, then the
charge of loss of form of the captain, slanderous campaigns of personal
nature and now the discipline issue. Ganguly has seen it all during a very
short span and till date he has given a suitable reply to each of these
charges. One cannot expect a Maharaja to be a timid creature. But bit is
necessary for him to know his limits. There is a very thin line
demarcating between bravery and foolishness and Ganguly had been guilty of
transgressing it too often. But it is that gut feeling which has kept the
side going and also won many games for India. One cannot have best of both
We are still in a phase of transition. But that cannot be allowed to go
on. The boys will have to take charge and announce in clear and
categorical terms to the world that Indian cricket is now a force to
reckon with. That cannot be done all of a sudden but in a phased wise
manner. Then why do we wait for long? Shouldn’t the Test series against
Sri Lanka be the first ladder?
Is The Mahraja's Innings At The Top Coming To An
By S Zeyaur Rahman
Remarkable turn arounds have been a characteristic of Saurav Ganguly. He
has a wonderful ability to surprise people, to deliver the unexpected. It
would not be an exaggeration to say that the entire career graph of
Ganguly has never been predictable.
But as luck has it, he finds himself on the wrong end of the spectrum. No
doubt all that he is doing is surprising people. Only that this surprises
are not pleasant anymore.
Flashback to circa 1991. The Indian team to Australia under Azharuddin had
a couple of promising batsmen who were billed to move into the shoes of
Vengsarkar and Shastri. There was the flamboyant Tendulkar and the gifted
Manjrekar. The train to Australia had an extra wagon and that was Saurav
Ganguly. Well he was written off much before he had even arrived. He did
not get much to do on the tour and the famous "I will not carry the
drinks" episode made sure that he would be banished immediately
And banished he was with immediate effect. Another southpaw replaced him
by the name of Kambli, who was not particularly endearing to anyone with
his demeanor. Nonetheless he was to play a very central role in the golden
period of Indian cricket in the mid 90s.
Ganguly was forgotten for the next five years. Like a bolt from the blue
he was recalled for the 1996 English tour. It was clear to every Tom, Dick
and Harry that he was their because of the quota system. Once again he was
not expected to do anything significant. In the first place he was not
expected to figure in the final eleven, because the team was already
packed with batsmen and he had to fight for a place with another lad, who
was not there on a quota. That lad was none other than Rahul Dravid.
Sidhu's infamous walk out, the dream debut of two youngsters in the same
test are a fairy tale of stuff. It was the extra wagon that kept the train
from derailing and got a century on debut at Lords and followed with
another one in the next test.
Ever since Ganguly has established himself as a top notch batsman, not
only in the Indian line up, but among his contemporaries. A player who was
supposed to find a place only if the team had seventeen players was in the
top ten of the world was a major surprise to one and all. Of course he had
far more illustrious companion in Tendulkar but he had comprehensively
overshadowed the one who was not a quota beneficiary. While Dravid did
struggle in the onedayers and is still doubtful sometimes, Ganguly has
matched Tendulkar step for step and stroke for stroke.
Not only that, Ganguly has proved to be a very effective bowler. Specially
as a breakthrough bowler he has some kind of an inevitability. To sum up,
a very effective allrounder, at least in the shorter version of the game.
To begin with his beautiful batting was a surprise to his critics and then
his display of controled swing bowling was as beautiful as it could be.
Does one forget the inaugural Sahara Cup at Toronto where he walked away
with four Man of the Match awards in five matches?
That was not the end of Ganguly's bag of tricks. He had established
himself in the team and was the lone choice for captaincy when Tendulkar
decided to be austere. True to his character, he has proved to be a very
The first deviation from the past was his assertion of his rights. Apart
from Gavaskar, no Indian captain has put his foot down in a team selection
meeting and walked away with the players of his choice. During the peak of
his career, all that Azhar could do was to openly criticise the selectors,
that too after the meeting. He had never demanded anyone specific like
Ganguly did and got. That was unheard of in the annals of Indian captaincy
and that too by a comparatively new chap.
This dominating demeanor was at its best in the series against Australia,
which was supposed to be the massacre of the innocents. The Mumbai test,
all but confirmed the theory. But Ganguly did the impossible at his own
den in Kolkatta and later in Chennai he produce one of the most
sensational upsets of all times, both in terms of statistics and style.
The sheer manner in which he ruffled feathers with the ruthless Steve
Waugh was a sight in itself. Meeting fire with fire is a trait which was
never associated with an Indian Captain, not even the self respecting
Gavaskar and the royal Tiger Pataudi. Well it did border on impertinence
and even temerity, given Waugh's stature in the game, like keeping him
waiting for the toss.
Ganguly was the toast of the media after the coup. He was hailed as an
ambassador or even prophet of new found self respect in being an Indian.
Suspensions and warnings not withstanding, he was an apostle for the
jingoistic nationalism which has found many favours of late. As long as
Ganguly was riding the success horse he was the cynosure of all the eyes.
But it is a different story now.
The most dreaded phrase for a batsman is loss of form. And Ganguly saw
that from close quarters. Day in and day out there were graphic
representations of Ganguly's poor scores. Every statistical detail was
fished out in proving his incompetence. He went through a hell of a time,
but only after the loss at Harare. Even after the Bulawayo test there were
only fleeting references to his poor scores.
Now that India is performing woefully in the Coca Cola triangular series,
the anti Ganguly campaign is at full pitch. Not long ago he was praised
for being an angry young man. Now his antics are akin to a national
disgrace. His suspension on disciplinary grounds has come at a very wrong
time and Ganguly has begun to feel the heat. He must have realised that
victory finds hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan.
At the time of writing this article, India had opened its account in the
series and technically still is in a position to qualify for the final.
That would be an interesting situation. I am sure much of the criticism
would have disappeared by then. Ganguly would be given an extended run a
freer hand etc. But in case India does not make it then it is going to be
curtains for Ganguly as a captain.
There are too many things working against him. He cannot expect a soft
treatment from the selectors for obvious reasons. The reported and
speculated rift with Tendulkar is potentially threatening. But ultimately
what counts are the results that he delivers. That is the only way to
survive in this big bad world. Keep on delivering Mr. Ganguly if you have
to live to see another day.
Thou Art, To Australia Thou Shall Return
English Cricket Digging Its Own Grave Yet Again
By S Zeyaur
The result of the second Ashes test has once again belied the hopes of all
the cricket fans who were expecting a keen contest this time. As a built
up to the series, England had been performing well by any standards. To be
precise they had been unbeaten in the previous seven series. In fact they
had won the six of them. Nobody doubted the superiority of Australia. But
they had finally lost a series in India and critics started to ponder if
the peak had been scaled and now it was going to be a downhill journey for
But Australia stopped the slide in the tracks and the critics began to
think of some term to denote permanent superiority. They won the
triangular series in style, routing England totally and beating Pakistan
convincingly. That was the first sign that the Brits are up against a
Still nobody had expected the Australians to do such a demolishing act.
They won the first test by an innings and in the second one they had to
chase 14 runs for victory. In the end we are left with the all-familiar
story of Australia marching towards yet another clean sweep. The score
line is reading 2-0 in their favour. More than the results, the manner in
which they have out played England is a clearer indication of the result
at the end of the series.
No doubt that Australia is a great side but England has no business to
surrender in one test after another. They have hardly had an upper hand in
any of the sessions so far. That is really bad. It is surprising because
they do have a reasonably strong batting line up and their attack at the
moment can be counted amongst the best in business today.
May be the ghosts of the previous Ashes still haunting them. This is the
first Australian side to have won six consecutive Ashes and I am sure that
it will return after claiming its seventh one. Personal capabilities
apart, this England side does not have a single member which knows the
taste of an Ashes victory and apart from Steve Waugh, no Australian has
tasted an ashes defeat. In my opinion it is a big big difference and that
has tilted the odds so terribly against England.
A lot can be said about the character as well. Steve Waugh for example
uses the wounds of defeat to urge him on and he comes up with something
extra every time he is under pressure. On the contrary the entire English
side scatters like nine pins whenever the need is to hold forte. Atherton
for all his resilience and resoluteness is not the same player he was and
one is not seeing the park in him that made him play memorable innings,
the kind of innings which single handedly defied defeats.
Stewart is not in his good phases either. There was a time that he was on
of the most reliably openers of his time. But he was shifted down the
order only because England had got a better option in Marcus Trescothik.
At the moment we are unable to recount the last time that Trescothik
produced a big innings. Among the others, the captain Nasser Hussain’s
perennially injured. It is the fourth consecutive series that he had to
sit out of a test match owing to some kind of an injury. That does upset
the rhythm of the batting side and always puts extra pressure on the stand
in captain. No winder that there were no takers fore the captains slot
when Hussain had his latest injury. They have had enough of it by now.
Atherton, Stewart, Hussain.. that is an impressive line up. To add they
have a very dependable player called Graham Thorpe who is always trying to
give his best. With four top class batsmen, there is no way that England
should not be bale to put up a defendable total or fail to chase a decent
score. But to the surprise of one and all that has failed to happen in all
the four innings so far.
I know England is facing perhaps the most balanced and lethal attacks of
the world. McGrath does not have a substitute as yet. Brett Lee is the
fastest. That in itself is an all win situation. The back up bowlers like
Gillespie can run through any side on any given day. And then there is the
trump card, Shane Warne, the best slow bowler of all times. That does
explain the mystery behind England’s small failures, but that is not a
rational explanation or an excuse for their failures.
It is indeed very difficult to come back from 2-0 and go on to win the
series. I mean that is difficult for any side against any side. But for
the current English side doing that against the Invincibles is not what I
would bet on. Even history is not on their side, as England has never won
an Ashes series after being losing the first two tests. But English
cricket cannot afford to hide behind these statistics and excuses It will
have to come back and at least infuse some life in the series. They are
answerable to history and of course accountable to the present, and given
the resources at their disposal, I see no reason why that they should not