Monday, December 11, 2006

Will God be dropped?

On the eve of the first Test against South Africa, on a trip which has been nothing short of the most disastrous one for the Indian cricket team in the new century (forgiving the New Zealand tour which was considered an aberration), the team think-tank is in a very interesting dilemma. After well-intentioned talks of building the future India, we are back to the team (especially the fantabulous middle-order) with which we started off in the Ganguly-Wright era. This very fact shows the merit of the cricketing structure on which the world's richest cricket board is operating.
Ganguly's 83 in the first innings of the warm-up game, although lucky, has proved what I always thought of the man - he is capable of 'inspiration'; for himself, and the others in the team. Ganguly's technique has always been questionable, what had enabled him to perform on the world-stage is a sublime God-gifted talent for timing and placement. He backed this with lots of pluck, and a mental toughness which at times allowed him to play some handsome match-winning knocks (especially in the ODI format), maybe as many if not more than Sachin. His record against good bowling attack in Test cricket is poor, but his career-defining century at Brisbane against the Aussies set the tone for the most pulsating Test cricket I have ever witnessed India play.
Pathan has totally lost sting as a bowler, and has almost become a batting all-rounder now. There is no way he can be accommodated as the fourth bowler of a Test attack, but what should allow him to retain the all-rounder's slot at No.7 is his superb batting in the warm-up game.
Which brings me back to my moot point. What is the team India goes with for the first Test. Leaving the openers aside for a while, Dravid is going to be fit and walks back into the team as skipper and the No.3 bat. Laxman has been forever under scrutiny, but surely you cannot drop him just after promoting him to the deputy's slot. Ganguly becomes another automatic selection after his 83 (though his dismissal in the second innings for a second ball duck again raises all the old uncomfortable questions of his calibre).
Dhoni and Pathan are the all-rounders, holding on to the No. 6 & 7 slots. They are then followed by the four-man bowling attack - most probably Kumble, Zaheer, Sreesanth and VRV, assuming Munaf remains unfit.
That leaves Sachin, and the openers. All three have flopped in the series so far. If one assumes Opening is a specialist job, then Sehwag and Jaffer hold on to their places, especially as Gambhir has not been tested even once. So the only slot available for Sachin Tendulkar, the God of Indian cricket, is as a converted opener. And if I understand his thinking any which ways, I am certain he will refuse to take the bait.
Then, will Dravid have the guts to drop 'God' for the first match? Or the selfless man that our captain is, he will again open himself, however reluctant he might be in doing so. Then the non-superstar Jaffer gets the boot.
Or maybe, just maybe, Dravid will pull off another coup, like when he declared with Sachin Tendulkar batting at 194* against Pakistan. I await Friday with bated breath, as to what direction will the future of Indian cricket take.

12 comments:

svety said...

I'm no cricket buff...no puritan...my understanding is limited...but its so interesting to see people around me approach the game.

I seriously believe that Ganguly was wronged.

I seriously believe that Dravid may be the greatest player India has ever seen and the works but he is not motivational to a country of 1 Billion.

I guess u guys would be really derisive of such comments but cricket works because it connects. And if u can't inspire the lowest common denominator, then u have no business leading a country.

But then I remind myself, this is not really leading 1 billion is it?
Just taking ownership of giving face to their belief..

So Dravid, u don't inspire us plebians much, u don't fire our imagination but, as long as u lead the team to victory, we accept....

As long as........

Amit Bajaj said...

that post stinks of a lot of bias..your disdain for mr.ganguly, though hidden comes through clearly. the bias is in fact not so much anti-ganguly as pro-dravid.

"ganguly and tendulkar have played SOME match-winning innings"!

what has rahul dravid done for indian cricket as skipper? mayawati was once asked what her biggest achievement as c.m. to which she said "installing 30 something statues of ambedkar"... dravid declaring the indian innings a little before tendulkar's double-ton seems like an answer in mayawati's league.

on the team selection front, why should pathan not be included as a batsman? surely he has been the best on display... isn't "the current batting form" the most important criteria for selecting a batsman? why else did you want ganguly to be dropped some time back ( though that was a rubbish argument anywhichways, statistically or otherwise). why else was karthick selected? ...blah blah blah !!

Amit Bajaj said...

svety svety svety

you talk so much sense.. i wish you had been a serious cricket buff..i'd have been your blog's biggest reader and fan..

ultimately it's not about cricket...it's much more, much bigger.. maybe because we are so much into cricket, that we get lost in the maze..as a semi-outsider you get a better perspective of things..am i talking sense?

Abhigyan said...

Boy did u guys change the topic of the post. My point is will the think-tank (we'll assume it is Chappell and Dravid in that order here, with Laxman in a sidey role) dare drop Sachin, which is a very logical thing to do. If the other circumstances I mention had not happened, then the axe would surely have fallen on Pathan (and I am not against him, I defnitely think we need his runs, and I want his bowling back).
Let me defend myself against Ganguly. I agree never thought of him much as a batsman, like I never liked Langer and Martyn much. Did it make a difference, all of them had stellar records. In the same way, I have backed Sarwan, Kanitkar and Raina, and apart from Kanitkar who definitely flopped, the jury is still out on the others.
I was also against Ganguly's selection the second time round in 1996, it reeked quite clearly of the Bengal quota. Am sure you guys will not remember but just before that, Prashant Vaidya and Utpal Chattejee had been selected for India, so Ganguly completed part of the Bengal-quote trilogy. His grand Test debut has put the maximum egg on my face in my cricket-following career.
I always preferred Dravid the bat, agreed to his sacking in the ODI arena in the late 90s, and started respecting the man even more once he came back the way he did in the Ganguly era. Easily the Most Valuable Player, and the most versatile bat we have had in the new century. And I think the Ganguly-imposed keeping wickets helped his batting quite a bit (Andy Flower agrees with me).
Ganguly is possibly the best captain India has had (I rate Sunny and Pataudi also quite high). And the time when he took over, he was the sort of man needed to pick India out of the match-fixing doldrums. Unlike Kapil, he did not lead by example, his commitment to the techniques Wright was ushering in (fitness drills, etc) was questionable, apparently he missed the first two tests of our historic Pakistan visit because of his low-level fitness only (got injured very easily as he had a dodgy back). What Ganguly did was made some fine talents blossom - Sehwag, Yuvi, Zaheer, Harbhajan, Kaif for a year. He also sort of mishandled Murali Kartik and Aakash Chopra.
Ganguly was also blessed with having a 4-man middle-order and an accomodated opener (because of the crowd in the middle) the likes of which I am sure we will never winess again. The epitome was reached in Australia in 2003-04. However, there was no doubt that in the 5 biggies, the weakest link was Ganguly himself, especially with another fine talent Yuvi breathing down these guys throat. Ganguly tried fitting him too as an Opener, but everybody is not a Sehwag.
Finally, when Ganguly was dropped, I supported it because he could no longer be considered an automatic selection for the Test team. I don't think India will manage with the Aussie two-captain policy, and I definitely don't agree with a Mike Brearley type of captain. You need to be an automatic choice as a player first, captain later.
In the conventional sense, Dravid is possibly a better captain. But theory does not work much in India, and you need someone like Ganguly to inspire people. Ganguly was hence a better skipper for India. He still has a place in the ODI team I think, not so sure of Test matches, but he has proved me wrong once. I also support marketing and commercialisation quite a bit, but in selecting team captains, I have my doubts.
And till then, I wait for even Sachin to get dropped for cricketing reasons. And I'll also be praying that he does prove me wrong.

svety said...

Arre baap re....just to reiterate I have no clue about all these facts and figures. I'm sure bajju does....so over to u guys.
Did not really register the topic of ur post so the diversion was not intentional.
Just asserting the common fan's mandate..
And, whos talking bout marketing and commercialisation...I was talking about natural leaders...

svety said...

And, yes baju u're talking sense....being an outsider in a room full of fanatics helps to get some perspective...haha.
I see it happening everyday at adidas...i really pop the bubble when I ask the most basic sports questions to complete fanatics who assume that the whole worlds like them....

satya said...

Svety, I dont see how inspiring the 1 billion matter at all unless its about pepsi. I think its just about inspiring 11 and win the goddamned game or atleast some.

I also really dont see how Ganguly has been wronged? I mean how? Please explain...please..enlighten me

Amit Bajaj, yeah so Dravid declared an innings when Tendulkar was on 194, big fucking deal...how does it matter? I think Tendulkar is god, so...is God bigger than the team...no way....

Abhigyan, what the hell are you saying, to quote you, "What Ganguly did was made some fine talents blossom - Sehwag, Yuvi, Zaheer, Harbhajan, Kaif for a year", since when did a year in Indian cricket or any thing matter....isnt that exactly ganguly's greatest gift, that he inspired certain youngsters and its over as you admit it your self?

I think if anyone can inspire it is Sachin, there is no 'natural' leader but God himself....its just that tendulkar had bad timings, he was the captain when half the team was eating money.....nothing to blame him for.....ganguly did well when he was there...very good...and I like Chappel agree...bringing him back to the team is going back in time...ganguly doesnt fit in....he has no cricket left...and remember he never was God......even keeping a God on the wane in your team can do wonders...either in inspirational terms or in his sheer genuis....and ganguly is neither

I think Dravid innings is being screwed due to this ganguly crap. Had ganguly not been a big Bong businessman with huge support in Calcutta, no one would have given a damn to his dropping. But alas, in India, when it comes to selection it is more then cricket which matters. Where you were born? Who are your backers?

So much for the CPI(M)'s love for the poor, that piece of shit which raised a question on ganguly in the Parliament should be hanged till death. isnt he supposed to be worried about the poor who are starving and dying rather than a Prince who is out of the team?

When Azhar as a captain took the team to South Africa, there were three camps in the team. The Kapil Dev one, a Shastri one and Azhar miyan's too? I think bringing ganguly back into the team will do the same, create dissensions into what I think is a divided team already....and you just create different power centers....Indian cricket just fails to learn. you guys sit here talking about talent and ability...

talent and ability do count...but this whole ganguly episode is strongly about the reaction to Chappel's dare....beyond a certain point everybody can play the same...the key question becomes...who can move the powers...

the sooner you realize this fact of truth about the 'richest' board in the world, the better it is for your analysis....

think of how everything else operates. why would cricket selection be an exception?

getting back to your point? will God be dropped?

My prediction, no, he wont. As you suggest the opening pair will be compromised and Dravid will open.....

and one knock of 83 makes Ganguly fit enough to be in the team? I think that scum of a guy is going to be forever thrown out after this tour. or atleast I hope he is. Else it just confirms my worst case analysis that..if you can pull the strings...you can make it

Abhigyan said...

Baap re satyabrat, you seem to have 'grown' from anti-sachin to anti-saurav, and how???
And what I mean abt talent under Ganguly was possibly hurried English - all blossomed, though Kaif had only one good year in particular (2002). Yuvi & Sehwag became world-beaters, Bhajji came into his own, and Zaheer was a champion bowler before he started getting injured (following the skipper apparently and getting complascent of his fitness).
Ganguly's future - definitely no captaincy, but apparently he can do the mentoring role which they wanted Sachin to do. And if he can again prove me wrong in the Test arena, Ganguly can definitely narrow the communication gap between Chappell's high-browed theory and our small-town newcomers. And anyway, I don't see Greg Chappell carrying on after the World Cup.
Ganguly has a future in the World Cup & the ODI team, even if at the expense of Sehwag (unless he does something magical) and Laxman (my favourite's childhood dream not withstanding).
As for Sachin the God, I frankly am growing old waiting for him to play those poetic knocks which Lara and Ponting keep playing. I have even shifted some loyalties to the more human Dravid.

svety said...

Satya, go read my post again, both of them and then u'll see that i'm not taking about the 1 billion at all.....

Amit Bajaj said...

never heard about any Oriya-Bong rivalries, though i can't fathom any other good reason for SATYA's outbursts... Ganguly ain't no Prince..that's a media creation in case you have got your facts incorrect..in case you have then solve one puzzle for me..either chappell is right when he says that ganguly needs cricket for the monies or you are right when you say he's rich... if you want to know why ganguly was wronged, do drop into my blog someday: http://cricketplusnews.blogspot.com and check out the post titled "Ganguly is back, but why did he go?"..If i reproduce it here, the control-freak Abhigyan may not approve my comments

Abhigyan said...

Bajaj it is below a blogger's izaat to not publish anything..and ur post hardly had any nastiness too...I reproduce the link below.

http://cricketplusnews.blogspot.com/2006/12/ganguly-is-back-but-why-did-he-go.html

And I also think the logic is flawed...The trend of scores are fine, am not even getting into how many did he get against Zimbabwe & Bangladesh, or just had one disastrous series. Ganguly, a year-and-a-half before and after his Gabba century (start with the home series against West Indies in 2002-03), did nothing as a Test batsman which could have justified keep Yuvi out, or Laxman under threat. The similie can be how Kapil kept Srinath out for two years, by refusing to become a batting all-rounder like Imran towards the end. Ganguly did sacrifice his opening ODI spot for Sehwag, and now I think its time he gets it back, fielding not withstanding.
As for Satya, don't bother much, he is in his usual form. Satya - Sachin as a skipper is a debate which is dead. I am trying to stoke a new one of Sachin as a batsman, and this time I also have facts backing me. Check out his Test record since the 194 declaration - did Dravid scar his psyche forever?

Abhigyan said...

A unbelievable turnaround, and led by of all people a Malayali break dancer-turned-cricketer Sreesanth (the key to this match was bowling SA out for 85). And if we don't win now, maybe I will have to retire.
But my question still remains - Sachin looked very good for his 44 in the first innings, but remember we still have kept Yuvi out of the middle-order. And in ideal circumstances, we shld have an all-rounder (only Pathan as of now) at the No.6 spot. So technically, one player still needs to feel threatened.
Both Dravid and Sourav have said in their recent interviews, Sachin Tendulkar has been the only man never to be dropped from the Indian team. The only comparison vis-a-vis batting in terms of world cricket is Lara - Ponting, Inzy, Waughs, all have been dropped sometime or the other.
Is it possible for the unthinkable to be thought of?