Ganguly left out, Jaffer returns
Yesterday, shortly after India had won
the second test at Delhi
, the selectors announced that while Dravid was [rightly] named captain for the series against Pakistan and England, Wasim Jaffer would be replacing Sourav Ganguly
for the final test at Ahmedabad.
Chairman of selectors, Kiran More, apparently hasn't been cured of his foot-in-the-mouth syndrome which led to him announcing last month that Ganguly had been included in the test squad as an all-rounder
. Ganguly didn't bowl a single over in the game. Yesterday, he reckoned that Yuvraj had been pencilled in at #6 and deserved more opportunities since he had been consistent. He felt that it wasn't ok to have Ganguly in the squad and not play him in the final XI. Taking the future of Indian cricket into account, he announced that the selectors had arrived at the decision.
I find a few things ridiculous with that explanation. Why should it be the prerogative of the selectors to decide what position Yuvraj bats at? For e.g., he went in at #7 in India's second innings since Pathan had been promoted to open. Surely, at some point of time in the future, Yuvraj [and Kaif] will be part of the test side for good and bat higher up the order
. So why didn't the selection panel think of fixing Yuvraj at #5 and get Ganguly to bat at #6? Why is Tendulkar's spot at #4 fixed? After all, Dravid opened in the first innings, when he was still ill
and came in to bat at #5 in the second. Laxman moved up to #3. Ganguly and Yuvraj dropped to #6 and #7. But Tendulkar was firmly ensconsed at #4. What is so sacrosanct about that batting position for him?
I'm all for a consistent selection policy where you don't tinker unnecessarily. It isn't as though India is 2-0 up in a 3 test series. In case the selectors decide to drop Gambhir for the final test, Wasim Jaffer comes in, needing to score big runs in order to ensure that he is retained as the extra opener for the tour to Pakistan. England persisted with Ian Bell
during the Ashes and he responded
with over 300 runs in the three tests
, and a dodgy wicket
. So why change a winning team? Gautam Gambhir deserves to be persisted with, in the long run. But he hasn't done anything in the three innings so far to suggest that he will cope against the likes of Harmison, Jones, Flintoff, Shoaib Akhtar, Naved-ul-Hasan, Mohammad Sami, Shabbir Ahmed etc. when he didn't pick inswingers from Vaas. So why did the panel choose to replace a middle order batsman with an opener? The previous panel picked an opener to replace a middle order batsman
, Dheeraj Jadhav for Sachin Tendulkar!
I am obviously unaware of the team dynamics, but from what I saw on television, Ganguly was fairly animatedly involved in aspects such as field placements etc. In fact, I distinctly remember some field placement adjustment from him as Kumble ran in to bowl the final over to Atapattu on the second day. That stunning catch by Gambhir may not have been directly related to the field adjustment, but certainly it meant that 'Dada' was involved in the thick of the action. His batting was admittedly slow. But the situation on the first day demanded that caution and attrition would be the buzzword so that being just three down could be capitalized on the next day. In the second innings, India had lost the wickets of Pathan and Dravid in fairly quick succession when Ganguly and Yuvraj came together. They put on 81 in 33 overs, with Yuvraj scoring 37 runs. Their scoring rates were more or less identical, Ganguly's was 33.9 and Yuvraj's was 35.9 [per 100 balls]. The plan for the morning session was obviously to ensure that no wickets fell and then batter the Sri Lankan bowlers in the next session. Yuvraj remained unbeaten and he achieved that goal along with Dhoni. But the platform had been laid with Ganguly's assistance.
In the context of Greg Chappell's leaked email to the BCCI
, I wrote
Ganguly is not old, even by England's strict benchmarks. He can still comeback, perhaps not as captain. I still believe he has a lot more to offer to Indian cricket and that it isn't yet sunset time for him. I'd rather that Indian cricket did not cast away a decade of investment and experience. But if Ganguly does come back, it will have to be on the basis of his improved attitude, fitness and form. Those three are non-negotiable as well, in my opinion.
To me, his responsible batting and the 79 runs he made indicated that his attitude and form had improved. There wasn't too much evidence to suggest that he wasn't fit. After all, a test match doesn't necessarily stress the players' running and fielding as much as a one-dayer does.
If ever Ganguly does come out with his autobiography, the events of the last six months or so will make some very interesting reading. Perhaps Mohinder Amarnath
will write the foreword in case it is named "A bunch of jokers".
Other reactions: Vijay Lokapally
, Sambit Bal
, Harish Kotian
, Pradeep Magazine
and Indranil Basu
If you feel strongly, in either direction, feel free to leave comments and vote in the poll on the navbar on the top right part of this page. I think the poll will stay around for a couple of days or so.