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Not the way to treat Ganguly

By Harish Kotian
December 14, 2005 18:33 IST
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As everybody was celebrating India's thumping victory over Sri Lanka in the second Test on Wednesday, came the news of Sourav Ganguly being dropped from the team for the third Test.

The deposed India captain had just worked his way back into the Test team after being omitted for the one-day series against South Africa and Sri Lanka.

After a consistent all-round performance in domestic matches, coupled with improvement in fitness and fielding, it seemed that the left-hander had finally adjusted to the rigours of international cricket.

True, he failed in the first Test in Chennai, scoring just five on a difficult pitch, where no Indian batsman crossed 36, as the team was shot out for a lowly 167. But, then, in the second Test he showed tremendous application to notch scores of 40 and 39.

In the first innings, he was involved in an important 121-run fourth-wicket partnership with Sachin Tendulkar, the highest of the innings, while in the second, he compiled a solid 39, denying Sri Lanka an early wicket on the fourth day and avoiding a repeat of the first innings, when India was bundled out an hour after the start on the second morning.

It was also heartening to see him help out captain Rahul Dravid with the field placings.

Just a couple of days ago, coach Greg Chappell underlined Ganguly's contribution to the side, calling him a mentor.

In the past we have seen India captains, after being stripped of the responsibility, opting to field on the boundary lines and not having anything to do with the team or the new captain. But, as was evident in the just-concluded Test, Ganguly was always approachable, whether you were a teammate, journalist or cricket fan.

Surprisingly, all that did not catch the attention of the Indian selectors, who felt that, with the return of Virender Sehwag, there was no place for the Bengali, who led India to some of its best cricketing moments since the 1983 World Cup triumph.

Once quite rightly termed 'a bunch of jokers' by Mohinder Amarnath, the wise men lived up to that tag by recalling Mumbai opener Wasim Jaffer to the Test team.

As an opener for an opener, Jaffer, for the out-of-form Gautam Gambhir, would have been the right choice. But, by going the other way around, cricketing circles will call it a politically-inspired move, what with the base of Indian cricket having shifted to Mumbai.

One doesn't understand the logic in picking Jaffer. If Jaffer makes it to the team, then Gambhir has to be dropped. So what was the point retaining the Delhi batsman, who has scored just five runs in the three innings he batted in the series and fell to the same bowler (Chaminda Vaas) thrice?

This time, one wouldn't fault Bengali cricket fans if they come out again in support of Ganguly. Certainly, he doesn't deserve such humiliation after leading Indian cricket to dizzy heights.

Which begs the question: Is it the end of the road for Ganguly?

With the politics in Indian cricket showing no signs of ending, it would be a surprise if he ever makes it back again purely on the terms of cricketing merit and experience. No amount of runs in domestic cricket can guarantee his comeback to a team, filled with the notion of youth and future.

If the selectors are looking at the future then what explanation can they provide for a 32-year-old being given the charge of a team with two years still to go for the World Cup?

The doors had been firmly shut on Ganguly's entry to the one-day team. Today he was shunted out of the Test team too. The 'Please do not disturb' board has been put up front for the Bengali left-hander.

Ganguly has always challenged everything impossible. Victory in Australia always looked impossible till that brilliant 144 by him on a seaming pitch in Brisbane in 2003 showed our batsmen the way and set the tone for a memorable series.

So don't be surprised if you see him make yet another comeback -- despite the odds!

But if he doesn't, then we got to thank him for the wonderful memories he has provided over the years and salute him for being India's most successful captain ever.

Your say: Was Ganguly unfairly sacked from the Test team?

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Harish Kotian