Sunday, October 30, 2005

Is Bengal Tiger an endangered species?

When India raced to a quick win over Sri Lanka in Mohali on Friday night, the talking point of the day remained. Selectors were to decide on the return of former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly. Officially their task was to announce the team for the next three one-dayers.
The case for the return of Ganguly was projected to be a strong one. He had done everything selectors had asked him to do. Within a week his tennis elbow mysteriously vanished, he proved his fitness and in his trial game he succeeded. Ganguly, while leading East Zone, hit a century against North Zone in the Duleep Trophy.
Oh, he is in form, screamed the Maharaja’s network. The important question is, so what?
So are the rest of the players. VVS Laxman is in form, Gautam Gambhir is in form, Sachin Tendulkar is in form and Rahul Dravid is in form.
And crucially India are winning. Suddenly India, ranked No7, are pummeling the second-ranked side in the world. More than the mere victories, the manner in which they were fashioned held the key to winning the Ganguly argument.
Now Ganguly can’t do anything which cannot be done better by the current Indian team.
So why Ganguly? Why not someone else? May be a few young fellas, who can blend into the grand design of Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell.
Selection committee chairman Kiran More had to admit it. “He (Ganguly) is a great player. But things are not going his favour.”
But gentlemen, things are, for once, are going in India’s favour.
Can we ask for more?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Living up to it

It would take an earthquake of more than six in the cricketing Richter scale to make cracks in The Wall. The second best one-day team in the world has already taken two shots and doesn’t have to its credit, not even a scratch.
Rahul Dravid has executed the opening gambit in the best possible manner as he began the latest of phase of his career. Two emphatic wins over Sri Lanka—Nagpur and Mohali—do not finish off the argument but it definitely is a pointer to what can be achieved with the current crop of Indian cricketers, if guided in the right manner.
There are two points to take note of now. Most important is the authority with which Dravid has taken charge of the team. And look at the kind of response, a team that was supposed to be split vertically a few weeks ago, has given the new skipper.
Change at the helm has not been just in a new face. Change in approach has seeped into the fifteen and is reflected on the scoreboard, where there is no room for ambiguities.
It is true, Indian selectors did announce Dravid as skipper for two consecutive series. An unprecedented move. In another words that just means power for only 12 one-dayers at home. You may lose more than you win in one-dayers, since you cannot employ defensive tactics to save your skin there.
Dravid is smart enough to realize that there is a lot that left unsaid in that announcement. Powerful reactionary forces are still at work that could scuttle the changes.
Though it is not said openly Dravid’s steps as captain are watched with diabolical attention. A few false steps would hasten the return of the divisive forces.
When selectors gave Dravid the reins of the team they had, however, kept the backdoor open without taking a firm decision on Saurav Ganguly.
Dravid has lived up to the selectors tease in impeccable fashion. He has plugged the gaps on the field, scored the runs, let others score and take wickets, and furthered Team India’s cause. An early finish in India’s favour at Mohali has now shifted the pressure to national selectors.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Another brick in The Wall

When Indian skipper Rahul Dravid gave the credit to Sachin Tendulkar for Imran Pathan’s elevation to No.3, it was a defining moment in Indian cricket. Well, Dravid was only acting true to himself. Giving the credit where it is due. A refreshing attitude.
No Indian captain, other than Dravid, would have dared to be so candid and let someone else take the honours for a move that proved to be a masterstroke.
When Maharaj ruled, and when things went wrong, he used the soap well. He kept himself clean off the dirt of the defeat. He could always find someone else to blame for the defeat. In triumph, he always jostled upfront to have his say though his bat had fallen silent.
I’m sure a few would be eager to present the theory that Dravid is not confident enough to take his own decisions. They might even say Dravid shall fall prey to the advice or suggestions of those who are with him. He leads by a committee, they shall say.
Let them. As the poet said ‘it is people’s job to speak.’
A wise captain always listens to his own voice but he must be attentive to what others say. Especially when that other is the most celebrated player on Planet Cricket, Sachin Tendulkar.
Dravid would do well to throw his ideas around his mates and be open enough to incorporate those that can strengthen the side into his grand design. Such an approach will only add to his stature.
Dravid was the man-of-the match at Nagpur. But he was wise and magnanimous enough to know who was the man of the moment‑Sachin Tendulkar.
“It's not easy to come back after four and a half, five months out of the game,” Dravid said. “Physically also, it is tough on you. He played a great knock for the team, batted for a long period of time," he added.
At Nagpur, Dravid did not have to speak about himself. Skipper’s bat did it pretty well.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

New order in Indian cricket

If India lose their first one-dayer against Sri Lanka that would be a just a statistic.
Rahul Dravid seems to have won more serious battles at Nagpur today. A son-in-law to the city of Nagpur, he has inherited the mantle of Indian cricket with a touch of authority that would augur well for the game in this country.
In the very first opportunity that selectors have given him, India’s new skipper has tightened the gaping gaps in the middle order at Nagpur. Irfan Pathan at No. 3. A batting slot that is so pivotal in a one-day innings. And he scored runs.
Pathan executed a role not so familiar to him to the satisfaction of the leadership. And in the process he has discovered how good a batsman he is. Better than Sourav Ganguly. Those who had bandied around the myth that Sourav Ganguly is the finest left-hander India has produced better fall silent now.
If anyone would be disappointed at the turn of events as the dragonflies buzzed around the wicket in Nagpur, that would be Maharaj.
Pathan’s success at No.3 against world’s Number Two One-day team has tightened the noose around Sourav Ganguly’s neck. A return would not be all that easy for the deposed Indian skipper now that India has begun to maximize its available talent pool.
It would be difficult to recall the batting order Maharaj used to prefer. He wanted to bat everywhere, depending on the bowling.
Pathan’s success would give enough ammunition for Dravid and Chappell to delay and eventually deny Ganguly the space for his further manipulations.
Promoting Pathan to No.3 had its advantages. This was not a desperate move, as were Ganguly’s so called initiatives in the past.
There was no crisis, there was only opportunity. With new field restriction rules operating and most of the international sides preferring to use them in the first 20 overs, this was a move that needed to be invented. Young minds could just abandon themselves at the crease and let the bat do the talking. A few bold strokes from eager, vibrant hands could set the stage afire.
I hope cynics would give the credit for the fresh move in equal measure to Dravid and Greg Chappell. Especially when the brave tactic has proved to be a resounding success.
And Pathan, for to his everlasting credit, has explained that be belongs to Camp India and not Camp Ganguly.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

BCCI is a four-letter word.

By John Cheeran
The BCCI is a four-letter word.
Hardly anything can they do right. On any given day you can fill newspaper columns by launching an attack on the Indian cricket board and invite accolades for your concern for sport.
The BCCI was under fire last week. The cricket board had let Duleep Trophy contests take place while coach Greg Chappell was putting the Indian team members through their paces. In an ideal situation, the theory goes that, the big guns of Indian cricket should boom in the domestic cricket contests. I agree.
But what happens when stars stay away from zonal competitions such as Duleep Trophy and Irani Trophy? Their places in the Zonal teams are taken up by those youngsters who might, one day, become the stardust themselves. Is the prevailing arrangement in itself such a bad idea? I don’t think so.
But the problem is that men wiser than me think otherwise. The BCCI was hauled over the coals for ignoring domestic cricket. The save Indian cricket theory wants the certainties of the current side leave no space for others to grow.
But then Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and other Indian discards played in the Duleep Trophy. I believe Sachin Tendulkar played in the challenger series. Things are not that bad. Or are they?
There are two innings in a Test match. There are two sides to every argument. Leave the space always for the other.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Can the Maharaja become a praja?

By John Cheeran
Can the Maharaja become a praja?
Sourav Ganguly has scored a point against his detractors in the Duleep Trophy tie against North Zone. The deposed Indian skipper hit a century to signal that he is in form as a batsman. And to buttress his claims for his place in the Indian squad, he led East Zone to a convincing win.
Certainly Ganguly is not down and out. Getting runs in domestic cricket and succeeding in international cricket are two different activities. Ganguly knows it. He has a quite a record in international cricket. The point is whether Ganguly still will be able to bat with authority against quality bowling in global realm.
His hit and miss tactics might come off, depending on the stage of the game and authenticity of attack. Selectors will be only doing their duty if they bring back Ganguly into one-day team. But is Ganguly prepared to take orders from Rahul Dravid?
Will he be expecting to pick and choose his slot in the Indian batting order? Is the Maharaja ready to be a praja in the empire of Indian cricket?
By keeping Ganguly in the side, selectors will be undermining Dravid, the skipper.
Ganguly has been lucky as captain of India. And his luck was in the form of Rahul Dravid and not Jagmohan Dalmiya.
Any other successful cricketer, apart from Dravid, would have told Ganguly to fuck off from the dressing room, a long time ago. Dravid has kept his place in the side because he gave his 100 per cent everytime. Attempts were made to deny Dravid his rightful place in the one-day squad, finding fault with his mode of run gathering, when others were scratching around the crease.
I recently heard a joke. Ganguly helped Dravid find a stable one-day slot making him the wicketkeeper. Anyone, other than David, would have refused to keep wickets when he is in the team as a specialist batsman. None has accommodated an Indian captain’s wishes as Dravid has done. The fault for this squarely remains with Dravid. What would have Ganguly done, had Dravid refused to keep wickets? Axed him?
To tell people to fuck off when they need to be, is a great attribute. I wish Dravid quickly develop this quality. When you are among a bunch of knee-jerked, rapacious youngsters, there is no point in being a gentleman.
Rahul Dravid, be a gentleman only at home. Be ruthless and truth less when you are in the Indian cricket team. More so, when you are the leader.
John Cheeran at Blogged