January 28, 2007

"Welcome back mate!"

The resurrection of Saurav "Aussie" Ganguly.

It would be fascinating to have a psychoanalyst talk us through Saurav Chandidas Ganguly’s survival, revival, arrival et al. And while we’re at it, how about a face reader? What conclusions would he draw – from the gawky nail biter to the hawk-eyed fighter? Can somebody get an astrologer on the line please – especially the one that predicted it, just like so-many of us prophetic sports’ writers – those that stuck our necks out for darling Dada against you-know-who. Do the last two months feel rewarding or what?

What was that? Did Ganguly top-score again? Wonder when he plays his first twenty20 game, will he max it there too? How does it get this good? What’s so special about Ganguly’s new avatar in the Indian team? And how on earth did he get back in the first place?

It’s baffling. Because it’s not entirely beyond the backing of the so-called blue billion in general, and the belief of Bengalis in particular. It’s almost like prayers moved him back into the team.

Better that logic, than the team management taking any credit for an inspired selection. If anyone, Ganguly’s cronies pulled it off for him, almost by default. Think Sehwag, Yuvraj, Harbajan and Zaheer. Imagine the pride Dada would have felt each time when one of his boys backed him as a great captain and player in the free press.

Not to forget Pepsi, the only advertiser that actually created a value (the fighter) out of a down and dusted Dada. While Tata Infocom discreetly edited him out of their commercials, and the Sona-Chandi ads became scarce, the somewhat farcical “Dada ki-baat” ad even led to some crude-spoofs on sms. Meanwhile Dada’s boys were crudely reprimanded for their comments; and they inexplicably started to fall and falter, vacating key positions in the batting order.

Had Dada’s blue-eyed boys survived the ODIs in South Africa, and then fallen in the subsequent test series, Ganguly could have strolled into a much easier home series v/s West Indies, Sri Lanka. But as Test and ODI teams selections are idiotically interlinked, Ganguly found favour in the tests after India got jacked in the one-dayers. Imagine, Michael Bevan’s Test career had he played for India. And to think that the short ball finished his test career too.

Anyway, picking Ganguly for the South Africa test series was arbitrary; just another cold-calculated move to appease bad noises back home. Almost like a soother for seething discontent. Or was it? Was it part of Plan B being finally played out just three months shy of the World Cup - but what was Plan A?

Plan A – try out young guns to the point of no return, nearly. If they don’t fire then revert to old firepower. On the face of it, there’s some twisted merit to this thinking– because, had India faltered with the old brigade earlier, and then gone about recruiting new soldiers three months before the World Cup, one wonders what would have happened. But when a new player is tried against West Indies (less than 2 months from the event), you have serious doubts about any cohesive plans.

At least for now, the plans seem irrelevant. India is enjoying its newest hero again. Often as before, one player’s excellence overshadows the cracks in the side. And while the goings good, and he switches from yogic defence to Sidhuesque attack against the spinners, it appears not even TADA can stop Dada. But the rotational policy can – when did India gain Aussie confidence to rotate a comeback player barely two games old? That if anything, is the selectors nod for Dada to pack his bags for the Caribbean.

Not too long ago, within days of unpacking his bags in South Africa, Ganguly addressed the team, in almost Deepak Chopra demeanour, stating that in his time away from the team he realised there’s more to life than cricket.

It doesn’t take a face reader to tell you that today Ganguly exudes energy and not arrogance. Even the scribes have moved beyond taking digs at the fabled Ganguly-Greg “good working relationship” joke. They are more into Ganguly-the-comeback-man with Jimmy Amarnath comparisons not too off the mark.

At the team selection meeting on 14th December, 2005, it was a unanimous 7-0 against Saurav Ganguly, the new captain, Rahul Dravid included. Since then there’s been plenty of lose talk about a second coming. But it did appear, even if Ganguly did return, it would be to expose his limitations even further.

Who would have believed that Dada will defeat his demons and make a comeback in the true sense – after all, that kind of stuff is reserved for Aussies like Damien Martyn, Mathew Hayden and Brett Lee. Guess there’s an Aussie in Dada too. Welcome back mate!

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