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    September 23, 2005

    Chappell turns on the heat

    Yesterday, India defeated Zimbabwe in the Harare test to win the series. The test match win took a while to come, as Zimbabwe, aided by some horrible catching, fielding and bowling, recovered from 42/5 and 85/6 to reach 223 and thus made India bat for a second time. Zimbabwe's total of 223 was largely due to a 120 run stand between Masakadza, who made 71, and Blignaut, who blitzed his way to an unbeaten 84. India won by ten wickets and nearly two and a half days to spare.

    This test series win, on the other hand, has been sixteen years in the making. After India beat England in England in 1986 under Kapil Dev, this was the first time an Indian team had won a test series outside the sub-continent.

    Under most circumstances, the Indian team, and followers/fans of Indian cricket, would have been rejoicing at finally getting the monkey off their backs and being the general object of derision across the cricketing world. But, not after the unhappy events in the past week.

    In a further twist, Indian coach Greg Chappell has apparently dashed off an e-mail to the BCCI President where he has made it clear that he does not think Sourav Ganguly is the right person to lead the Indian team because of Ganguly's fitness, attitude and form.

    This is a fall-out of the happenings during the first test against Zimbabwe when Ganguly hinted that Chappell had asked him to step aside, both as captain and as a team member, in order to provide opportunities to the likes of Yuvraj and Kaif who were in better form than he was. Subsequently, a temporary truce was reached with the coach issuing a statement implying that it was just a honest discussion and that he greatly appreciated Ganguly's contribution to Indian cricket. Of course, Chappell did not say that he had changed his opinion on Ganguly's position vis-a-vis the ideal team composition.

    Yesterday, after the game ended, Chappell mentioned the need to build up to winning the 2007 World Cup. In this context, he dropped enough hints to indicate that Ganguly and a few other players, possibly referring to Nehra and Zaheer, were not in his scheme of things.
    It will take time to develop a team and I suppose a decision has to be taken on which of the senior players are most likely to last and be potent enough that long. There are some things which are non-negotiable. Fielding and fitness are two of them. Unfortunately, players would not find it any easier. Guys who are buying into it are going ahead and those who are not buying into it will find themselves by the wayside.

    We have been extremely supportive of Ganguly's contribution to the Indian team as captain over the last half-decade. We've argued for retaining him in the team and as captain even as his form suffered in the last year and more. In fact, we even supported the BCCI selectors' move to name him captain for the Zimbabwe tour although Dravid had skippered in Sri Lanka, including a couple of games where Ganguly played under Dravid.

    However, if the coach's pronouncements on Ganguly's attitude towards his game, his fitness, the team etc. are right, then I think it is time for Ganguly to be left out. Perhaps not forever, because I still think he is good enough. But certainly for a period of time sufficient enough for him to realize his faults and mend them. He has never been the greatest fielder or runner. It would be impossible to make him field like Yuvraj or Kaif. But he has to meet the bare minimum requirements for a spot in the side.

    As Chappell implies, while you may not be able to bowl or bat well, you must show your inclination and ability to field well and be fit. Bowling and batting are essentially individualistic means of expression. Fielding is not. When you bat or bowl, the runs and wickets accrue against your name and the team's. But when you field well, you are contributing to your stats, your team's achievements and helping a teammate get a wicket or concede less runs. That is the essence of a team game. Ergo, if you do not even take the effort to improve your fielding skills, you do not want to play for the team and are thus a misfit in such a scenario.

    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.

    Time to temporarily ride off into the sunset, Dada. But it isn't the end. If you do come back, you have a lot more to offer!

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 4:20 pm |
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    1 sledge(s):

    Of the three attributes (attitude, fitness and form) allegedly needing work by Ganguly to restore Chappell's confidence in him, I suspect attitiude above all is the bone of contention.

    Captains with personal form slumps are tolerated and supported if their overall contribution (and above all leadership) are consistent and harmonious with the team's goals, management and coach.

    I doubt whether Michael Vaughan is losing sleep over his Ashes average. It is clear he inherited and enhanced the working relationship Nasser Hussain developed with Duncan Fletcher.

    Ganguly has drawn a line in the sand by casting moral aspersions on Chapell and there can be no way back for at least one of them.

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