Sourav Ganguly retires from all cricket

From The Times of India:

Sourav Ganguly confirmed on Sunday that the IPL match between Pune Warriors and Kolkata Knight Riders on May 19, 2012, was his last competitive match in domestic cricket.

It’s about time.

Understandably, he wanted to leave IPL the way he left international cricket, on the back of strong performances and a personal high. (He recommends repeatedly that that’s the way to retire). That he wasn’t originally selected for IPL4 came in the way of those plans, and I have a feeling that he had to commit to playing IPL5 just in order to get back into the IPL fold, with Pune Warriors in the latter parts of IPL4.

I have a feeling he wouldn’t even have played IPL5 if he was originally selected in the IPL4 auctions.

It’s now close to four years since he stopped playing international cricket, and his IPL performances have steadily and visibly deteriorated over the past couple of years. He’s been a great player for India, but it certainly is time for him to move on.

Hopefully he’ll stick around in a coaching / mentoring capacity, though. His is one of the finest cricketing brains in the country, and Pune will do well to keep his services.

Congratulations, Dada, and best wishes for the future.

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“Ganguly should not have sneaked into IPL”

Came across this article a few days ago, but didn’t get around to comment on it. Today is as good a day as any to do so, when Sourav made his way back to the field and shrug off the cobwebs to unfurl some trademark strokes.

Welcome back, Sourav.

Anyway, back to the article. Some quotes:

I respect the fact that this is a decision of the franchise and Ganguly. But such moves will always have mixed reactions within the cricket fraternity.

Yes, those mixed reactions. Deccan flags flying for every Ganguly run. The crowd going crazy every time he’s on the giant screen. Even though he’s apparently playing an away match. And then this. Mixed reactions indeed, Mr Srinath.

Now, he has to start all over again, join a struggling team midway, and immediately start to pull his weight because he carries a lot of expectations.

[…] it’s tough for someone who has not played competitive cricket for so long to come in and step up straightaway.

Makes his performance today even more impressive, no?

Mr Javagal Srinath, it’s one thing to have doubts about a comeback. Yes, we all had doubts. But isn’t it another matter to call it “sneaking back into IPL”? Especially coming from you, sir, who was coaxed out of retirement by none other than Sourav mere months before the 2003 World Cup?

How would you have reacted if you were said to have snuck into the 2003 World Cup team, a week before your first game?

Sourav Ganguly and IPL4

So IPL [1,2] season 4 is under way, and there has been controversy about the non-selection of former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly[3,4,5,6].

Today, however, this video is making the rounds.

Translation:

Host: We’ve had countless phone calls [from fans, asking whether Sourav will ultimately be seen playing IPL4].

Sourav: I think yes, you’ll get to see me. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, though.

Moreover, there’s this quote from Kochi Tuskers Kerala (KTK) management:

But if there is a need [for a replacement player], we may opt for Ganguly.

KTK, will, of course, lose their captain and star batsman Mahela Jayawardene to his national duties in a few days.

Two things:

1. If KTK can recruit him now, why was there all the drama from BCCI and the other franchises before? To be fair, KTK did show interest in him after the auction, but could not sign him (see links 4,5 above).

2. If he does join KTK, Kolkata Knight Riders owner Shah Rukh Khan should prepare for completely empty galleries at Eden Gardens. He really should.

But every time I see these stories, there’s always one nagging thought: in addition to all his other engagements, I hope Sourav Ganguly has been practicing very, very hard in the off season. For all his fans and detractors that are shouting for him, at him, and at each other, it’s him who has to take to the field and score at better than run-a-ball.

Even though I’m a big fan, I don’t think he should be playing this season. He’s been away from it all for too long now, even though he scored a bulk of runs last season. Well, he’s done it before – come back from the dead. I hope he does it again.

I’ll be waiting to watch him.

Playing for Money

Came across this Hindustan Times article by Soumya Bhattacharya about the IPL, where the author argues that it is infinitely more pleasing to watch our cricket heroes in our national colors, rather than for their respective franchises.

I can understand the sentiment, and where he is coming from. I’d much rather root for Sachin all the way, than realize with every scintillating shot that he’s pushing my team, his opponents this time, inexorably towards defeat. But Mr Bhattacharya quickly moves to reasons that leave me baffled, and no longer able to support his position.

At the beginning, Mr Bhattacharya recognizes that a Tendulkar innings at the IPL has every bit of class as any of his international gems, but:

Why was it that this innings (71 not out from 48 balls) gave me not a fraction of the delight that those innings [some of SRT’s great ODI innings] had? Because those were proper international games. Because Tendulkar was playing for India rather than for a league side. And we all know where we stand when India plays cricket, don’t we?

This bit above can be understood: he realizes that the quality of the opposition is not as good as in international fixtures, and hence the diluting of the pleasure quotients. But the next bit of reasoning is more baffling:

We know, too, the frisson of pride and honour that illuminate a player’s best performances when he plays for the country.

[…]

For the most part, there is only one big motivation for playing — and playing well — in the IPL: money. In the league, there are many players whose international careers are over (Warne, Gilchrist, Kumble, Ganguly).

The money from this is all they can make out of playing cricket now.

He doesn’t prefer watching the players at the IPL because they are playing for money? As opposed to…? These guys are professional sportsmen – they are supposed to be playing for money! Would I be fair to reject the posts that Mr Bhattacharya writes for the Hindustan Times because he’s getting paid for them?

Also, it’s a long stretch to imagine that money is the only factor. Yes, money is a factor, of course – they won’t play for free. However, there’s much more at play here. Retiring from international cricket is very different from retiring from all forms of cricket – indeed many players continue on the domestic circuit long after they bid adieu to their national colors. That’s because there is a very significant difference between maintaining international levels of physical fitness and competitive sporting skills, than having to maintain them for 8 weeks of the year for a domestic competition.

International retirees are playing the IPL not just for the money (does Mr Bhattacharya really believe a Sourav Ganguly or a Shane Warne needs a couple million dollars more doing something that they would otherwise not do at all?). They are playing because they still believe they can compete (whether they actually can, is a different question), and it is still manageable for them to maintain themselves for a few weeks every year, and be on the touring circuit away from their families.

A Sachin Tendulkar innings or a Sourav Ganguly masterpiece is exactly that – an artist doing his magic. It doesn’t matter which stage he chooses to display his craft.