December 16, 2005

The crucifixion of Saurav Ganguly.
By Gaurav Sethi

Who was Jack the Ripper? Who killed Bruce Lee? Who shot JFK? Who finished Saurav Ganguly? For each one of these there are some mind blowing conspiracy theories – imagine, Jack the Ripper is alleged to have been the Prince of Wales. But then, who will believe that Saurav was once the Prince of Calcutta.

In happier times when Harbajan Singh struck, he would balle balle into the Prince’s embrace, to be hugged and airlifted all at once. At the Kotla test when Bajji got his man, he did his impromptu gig, though the finishing touches weren’t quite the same. Saurav might have been an arm’s length away, but like a recluse, he appeared to be dancing alone.

Given a chance, wouldn’t Saurav have loved to hug Bajji (the young sardar he had nurtured) – and wouldn’t Bajji (outspoken critic of Chappell during the Dada debacle) loved to have done the same. But then, this is real life, folks.

In one frame, the distance traversed by this team in the last few weeks was established – it was obvious that even though Ganguly was a part of team India, at least for the time being, he had fully relinquished his hold on it. Worse still, he had also misplaced an emotional bond with his teammates.

Nowadays, players congratulate each other in the most bizarre fashion – the hair ruffle is in with the Aussies and the English. While cricket’s Inzis might prefer to be less demonstrative, Ganguly has been arguably the most expressive world cricketer in the last five years or so. In this series though, he appeared unnaturally restrained, if not altered.

Buried was the mercurial man. Suppressed was Saurav. Muddled was Maharaj. Diminished was Dada. Every avtaar of his multi-facetted personality had been curtailed, if not castrated. They had not only taken his captaincy, they has seized his voice, his nerve, his personality. And in doing so, they had stripped him of his individuality. Saurav Ganguly - meek, self-restrained, aloof, at Chennai and Delhi; not half the man he once was. May be he just couldn’t afford to be himself anymore…that is, if he wanted to be a part of team India.

Of course, all that has been hastily taken care of – so, where does Saurav go after being India’s most successful captain? What does he do when five years of his life have been blanked off in a few minutes? That Saurav enjoyed, possibly thrived on leading team India, is an understatement. Among other things it enabled him to play mentor to the likes of Harbajan, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Zaheer and Nehra. And talking of mentors, what did Greg Chappell say the other day?

GC said, “Ganguly is a mentor too”. Now, why would the coach make such a statement, if he knew Dada would be dropped in 3 days. One can’t expect Chappell and Ganguly to be on back slapping terms again; however, a professional working relationship is not beyond the realms of belief. Or is it? The character assassins will be out – Greg Chappell will be made the chief culprit– the man who finished Saurav Ganguly’s career. But is that entirely true?

To a large extent, Saurav Ganguly is responsible for his own ouster. The stats have been out for the last God-knows how many months. It’s always the twin averages (with and without games against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh). It’s a joke by now, that Dada’s big scores for the last couple of years have been against weaker sides. Then there’s the Nagpur green top episode against Australia – how Dada allegedly feigned injury and ducked the test. But will someone ask, why did the Maharashtra cricket board provide that green top – to spite Dalmia via Dada?

In many ways, controversy has often shadowed Ganguly – on India’s last South African safari, Tendulkar’s alleged ball tampering, Sehwag’s over appealing, match suspensions, and test status debates diverted the focus from India’s poor series and Ganguly’s captaincy. Then again, India’s success overseas shot up dramatically in recent years with Sehwag blazing on top, followed by Dravid and Sachin. And with Ganguly as captain, and John Wright as coach, India made the world cup finals, beat Pak and Australia in their own backyards. Recall that brilliant 160 plus by Saurav at Brisbane in the first test – the very impetus for India nearly winning a series down under. Which incidentally, was Waugh’s last series as captain.

Possibly why, old foe Steve Waugh says that Sourav's bickering over pitches "was not too different from match-fixing". In fact, Saurav even got under the skin of the iceman Steve Waugh – by first making Waugh wait at the toss, and then unleashing Waugh’s mental disintegration tactics on the Aussies themselves – sledging Steve Waugh and co, and making bunnies out of Ponting and Gilchrist in the famous India-Australia series. Which player, save Sunil Gavaskar, in the history of modern Indian sport has had the ambition and stature to take on the godas (whites) at their own game of arrogance and indifference?

Once upon a time there was a young man who lazily leaned into the most sublime off drives. Everybody waxed eloquent in the box; Boycott endeared himself to millions of Indians with his cockney Prince of Kalcutta title. And at the risk of repeating Dravid for the millionth time, the Prince did come close to the man upstairs –though there are no accounts to prove that Christ or Krishna ever wielded a bat. But then, you get the drift, right?

Talking about God and all - Jesus was betrayed by his disciple. Ironically, at the team selection meeting on 14th December, 2005, it was a unanimous 7-0 against Saurav Ganguly, the new captain included. There’s talk about a second coming – and who knows, may be Ganguly might still make a come back, to save the world of Indian cricket all over again. But for that he had to be crucified first.

No comments: