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    December 15, 2005

    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.
    Thus spake Jagadish @ 12:10 PM |
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    7 sledge(s):

    Well !! There is apparently more to it than what More (Kiran) is telling in public. Obviously they could not have decided such an important matter in just 20 minutes. It was probably taken on the 4th day evening, when all the 5 wise men returned to Kotla. More, who himself was dumped in favor of Mongia years before is no stranger to these kind of 'slam dunks'. From media reports, it is pretty evident that no one really spoke to Sourav, after the news. Neither the selectors nor the players. That is indeed sad. Let us assume for a moment that Dada comes back. How will he feel going into a huddle with these fair weather friends?
    Anyway, from cold cricketing logic, Sourav had outlived his welcome and is well beyond the 'sell by date'. I won't read too much in his 40 and 39. Remember,Sangakara missed a simple stumping off him at 11 in the 1st inning. The only thing which leaves a bad taste in the mouth is the manner in which it is done.
    PS : My cricket blog (perhaps you can consider adding in the links

    By Blogger Crick_Love (15-Dec-2005, 4:52:00 PM)  

    crick_love: Sangakkara missing a stumping isn't Ganguly's problem. Would you devalue Brian Lara's 501 because he was let off by the keeper? Let-offs by fielders/bowlers are common. It is what you do _after_ being let off which matters.

    By Blogger Jagadish (15-Dec-2005, 5:15:00 PM)  

    I have liked Ganguly for his attitude. i have also not liked him for his attitude. As a player his usp was his timing and offside play, which has been figured out by the opposition. But, he had somewhere along the line assumed that he would be there despite not scoring as prolifically, simply because he was a successful captain. Thats where he lost the plot.

    This decision is not based on his 39 and 40 or the nitty gritties of this test match. It has a much broader implications. I still believe they chose him for test 1 to pacify the kolkata crowd to atleast allow that odi match to go on. There were lots of threats before that. That it was still a mess is another point.

    I respect Saurav for what he brought to Indian cricket. I hope that he goes back to domestic cricket, works out the chinks, scores plenty of runs and forces his way into the team on the basis of his runs (current form) and not reputation. I too believe that he has a lot to contribute to Indian cricket.

    Jag, not all decisions are statistics driven.

    By Blogger Srini at the Movies (15-Dec-2005, 6:07:00 PM)  

    I was a huge fan of his captaincy and the way he transformed this team along with Wright and Dravid. He made some mistakes as well, for e.g. his over reliance on Ashish Nehra and skepticism for Kumble nad Karthik. But come on he is human.

    Also you cannot remain captain for eternity by not performing and simply cause your team wins consistently. I also agree he has been given enough chances on his batting form. One century in two years and he yet held his place in the side, which guy would have got that luxury?

    There is no way I agree with the way he came out in public about his little spat with Chappell. He asked for some spanking and got it.

    But he does not deserve this kind of humiliation. He has done enough for Indian cricket that most captains have not managed and definitely deserves a dignified exit.

    It does not send out the right signals at all. It's pretty sad for Indian cricket isn't it?

    The selectors and board are playing some politics. Ganguly should only know it better.

    By Blogger Minal (16-Dec-2005, 10:36:00 AM)  

    Srini: On the evidence in Indian cricket for the last 70 years, captains stayed in spite of pathetic form and were thrown out for non-cricketing reasons. As far as I can remember, there've been very few Indian captains sacked for cricketing reasons, especially form. Pataudi's reign as captain ended with Vijay Merchant's casting vote in favour of West Zone's Wadekar, Kapil and Gavaskar were used as pawns by the North and West lobbies, Vengsarkar and Srikkanth suffered because they talked about things like player rights etc., Shastri's outspoken nature and the fact that he was considered a fill-in for Vengsarkar [at Madras, 1987/8] ensured he didn't get the job. I'm fairly sure that subterfuge was involved in a few other decisions as well.

    Minal: Certainly he was given enough time to get his batting on track. He made things bad for himself by speaking out about what transpired with Chappell, skipping the Challenger trophy and perhaps even his last minute pull out at Nagpur against Australia convinced his teammates and the selectors that he was not indispensable any more. Like I said, we'll need to wait for his autobiography ... or we'd need Jaywant Lele to spill some beans, but since he isn't part of the scheme of things anymore, we'll never get that from his mouth :)

    By Blogger Jagadish (16-Dec-2005, 4:28:00 PM)  

    Kiran More was not very reliable with the wicketkeeping gloves in his playing days. After all, he was the man who made Graham Gooch a great player. In that match, More grassed a chance and the English opener went to score the highest number of runs in a test match.

    It came as no surprise that the Chairman of selectors went on to justify the selection of Saurav Ganguly on the ground that the former Indian captain was needed for his all-round ability. More than a few questions were raised considering the exclusion of Ganguly from the one day team where his all-round skills are more helpful for the team.

    Now, when Saurav put up a good show in the second test, the selectors dropped him in favour of Wasim Jaffer who to nobody's surprise hails from the new power centre of Indian cricket, Mumbai. Of course, More can now claim that the selection of Ganguly for the first two test matches was beyond his control with pressure from some members of the selection panel. This time with a more friendly panel, More can be proud of having corrected the mistake. Talk about two wrongs making a right.

    It is people like More backed by the likes of Raj Singh Dungarpur who give Indian cricket the bad name that it has. To my surprise the role of More was not investigated in the Abhijit Kale episode.

    The exclusion of Ganguly and the inclusion of Jaffer in the team for the third test is something that is going to please people like Ravi Shastri. The former player had always expressed his dislike for Ganguly the captain. He always cited the case of Australia and tried to pretend like an Australian with borrowed phrases and accent.

    If domestic performances are any yardstick for selection, then what about Zaheer Khan? Is the left arm paceman given ignored because he does not play for Mumbai? Does Ajit Agarkar continue in the squad for being a part of the Mumbai team?

    A couple of months back, Saurav Ganguly was a hated figure and now he has become a martyr or even a saint. Kiran More and his backers deserve all the credit for this amazing transformation.

    By Blogger SAI MADHAV (18-Dec-2005, 10:16:00 AM)  

    sm: More paid for his "lack of good glovework" with being replaced by Mongia in the early 90s. I wouldn't attribute regionalism to Jaffer being picked. Interesting point about Kiran More's role in the Abhijit Kale affair. I'd written about him getting the job last year in the same context. I think it is highly unlikely that Ganguly will be picked for Pakistan. On what grounds does he get picked?

    By Blogger Jagadish (19-Dec-2005, 3:16:00 PM)  

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