“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.

Farewell, Sourav Ganguly

I had imagined that I would write a post in tribute to Sourav Ganguly, a sportsman and a public figure that I have admired for a long time, perhaps more since the time he took over the captaincy. He’s been a good sportsman; he has been an exemplary statesman; and he has been a huge inspiration, not just on the cricket field, but off and away from it too.

He’s shown how to fight, he’s shown how to believe in oneself, he’s shown that it’s not over till the last ball is bowled. He started off with a good natural game, and a sense of timing on his shots, and then he’s honed his skills, with only, and nothing but, hard work and perseverance, and brought his game up to very close to being great. He’s shown that if you want something hard enough, and are prepared to go the distance, it’s probably not impossible.

But most of all, he’s taught us to dream – to dream big, and yet be real in those dreams, to believe in your own ability, and yet be realistic in self appraisal, and to have a big heart, and be ready to fight – fight to the finish, fight, till the last ball is bowled. Yes, I think fighter is a word that describes the man well.

I will miss Sourav Ganguly the batsman, those silken shots and lazy elegance, and the apparent time that he always had to play his shots. But I will miss more the inspirational figure, the one that taught me to believe, to dream, to back myself and trust my abilities, no matter what.

That’s it. It’s over. An era comes to an end.

Adieu, Sourav Ganguly, and good luck in life after International Cricket.

P.S.:

1. I am not sad, mind you, with the fact that he is leaving. He had to leave at some point anyway, and if so, what better way to leave? At the top of one’s game, in the back of a wonderful two years of International Cricket, against the World Champions and his favorite opponents, with a series win. As always, he couldn’t have scripted it better if he had written it himself. Yes, even after the missed hundred and the golden duck in his last Test.

2. After some attempts at writing this post, I had finally decided I wouldn’t actually write this tribute, because apparently I couldn’t find the words. Some things, I told myself, are beyond words. This post was meant to be a short farewell post, which explains the first sentence of this post. This is more than the short post that I had planned, and yet, it’s true. Some things, some people, and some emotions, are beyond words and a blog post.

Not over yet, Sourav…

Hundred on Debut.

Hundred on Farewell?

An exquisite knock was not enough in the first innings.

But Sourav, one last time, for one last hurrah, for us to take our hats off one last time, for the record books, go get one in the last innings of your life.

The eulogies will follow, but it’s not over yet.

Right, Sourav?

Dravid vs Sourav? Poor journalism…

In a test match series of the magnitude of an India-Australia series, there is of course a lot of articles and analyses on offer from the media. My usual haunt is Cricinfo, which for the most part gives insightful and trenchant commentary on the day’s action (when you’re on the other side of the world, that’s the most that you can hope for!).

This report appeared today at Cricinfo, and discusses how the Indian batsmen were forced out of their respective comfort zones by setting defensive field settings.

Only Dravid found a method to beat the suffocation … [and] he worked around it [Ponting’s field settings]. … Dravid waited for the ball [that he could hit suitably, and scored off them].

Unlike several of his team-mates, his dismissal was not a result of a rash shot. … he was beaten by Shane Watson’s inswing and got struck on the pad with the bat extremely close to ball. The decision might have gone his way on another day.

I wonder why Sourav Ganguly’s name does not come up even once in the entire write-up. Sourav scored 47, only 4 runs less than Dravid, at a patient 40 runs per 100 balls. About his dismissal, the daily bulletin of the day’s play mentions:

… [Johnson] trapped Ganguly lbw for 47. It was a rotten bit of luck for Ganguly, who was probably struck outside the line – although at first view it looked a reasonable shout – from the first ball after he had a concentration-breaking interruption due to a nosebleed.

The same bulletin continues:

… there were some positive signs from Ganguly… Apart from one loose waft outside off stump – and he chastised himself furiously for it – he displayed impressive focus.

Isn’t it shameful that a journalist resorts, even subconsciously (that, I think is worse – it only means that his ideas are so ingrained that he cannot get out of them), to a “Who’s better” contest within a team, when both batsmen contributed almost equally?

Why is it so hard to recognize that both these batsmen are great in their respective rights, and give them the due that they so well deserve?

On Sourav Ganguly’s ‘Interview’

A recent interview has appeared in the Bengali local ‘Aaj Kal’, where Sourav has been attributed with some decidedly caustic comments. As expected, a furor has followed, and today, this is what I found:

… Ganguly rubbished the interview saying he hadn’t made the comments that were printed in the paper. “Why would I say such things?” It’s all rubbish,” he told The Indian Express by phone from Bangalore. “I don’t understand how such stories get printed. I want to make it clear that I did not make the remarks that have been attributed to me.”

Also, this, in the same report:

Vengsarkar told PTI: “I won’t answer him now as this is not the right time because India are in the middle of a Test series and it might affect the focus of the team. But I will definitely answer him after the series is over. He will get more than what he has asked for.”

Two comments, I have:

1. I don’t think Sourav did that interview. Reasons:

a) Aaj Kal is not Sourav’s preferred media outlet; he has a much more cordial relationship with Goutam Bhattacharya, the Sports Editor at Ananda Bazar Patrika. It’s usually Ananda Bazar that comes out with nifty (and true) details about Sourav.

b) Sourav has not been his old impetuous self for quite some time now. He’s been much more mellow, and wary of aggressive comments, and this outburst is now very, very uncharacteristic.

2. Mr Vengsarkar, if you really think making comments in the middle of a series is not the best idea, should you not have reserved your own comments at this point? Worse than making a comment is the threat of dire consequences, which you have effectively done here, assuming of course that those comments were actually yours.

I wonder: When was the last time Sourav went into a series without controversy, cricketing or otherwise, hanging over his head? He’s still done well – in fact better than ‘well’, and that’s a credit to the man.

More on Sourav to follow.

Compromise, Sourav?

Sourav Ganguly has announced his retirement, saying the upcoming Test series will be his last. While this marks the end of a chapter in Indian Cricket, and I am sure I will write more on this, other thoughts come to mind too.

Amid all the speculation of a compromise between BCCI and senior cricketers, of a ‘Voluntary Retirement’ scheme that Anil Kumble pooh-poohed, comes, out of the blue, this announcement. More, Kris Srikkanth adds that Ganguly has made the ‘right decision’. “Right” decision? – interesting choice of words there.

Sourav, we’ve never known you to make a compromise, to offer anything but your best effort, to do anything but look a challenge in the eye and face it head-on.

Sourav, before I go into farewell blog posts, tell me something. Did you just disappoint us, right at the very end? Did you, Sourav Ganguly, make a compromise?