Eating Humble Pie

kmp writes in, in response to In Which I Eat Crow:
>>I was supporting England of course

Is it “Sourav Mania” (a la a section of our BB*** )? Or is it just Freddie “Fantastic” Flintoff? ;-) (Mind you Sourav and Flintoff did not get along well either!!!).

Much has been talked about dropping Saurav (and of course treatment meted to him – and me too being a sympathizer). But, what’s the point? He was not performing for a while – and he should be dropped not withstanding the emotions attached. Yes, there is an argument then “why not others”? Of course why not? But, that does not mean bring back Saurav – does it? And, the list of “Why not others” has only Sachin for the time being – but Sachin has an aura which I think nobody else can get (and I don’t want anybody else to get lest we become the prisoners of that again).

And, why is it that people hate Greg – for being antagonistic with Saurav? Just that - come on!
Stern rebuke indeed! Not entirely unjustified for sure. My answers to his (non-rhetorical questions) first. Then I will try to offer my reasons but even I'm not too confident that I can rationalize this away. It straddles the borderline between reason and emotion as kmp has guessed. I put in the effort mainly to get it off my chest. It will be a ragged defence, maybe it will be cathartic too.

The answers to his questions are:
  • Yes
  • No (though the English team grows on one if one is not careful) - and it would be difficult to find anyone who got along well with Ganguly other than Boycott
  • I agree, there is no point
  • No it does not mean backing Sourav
  • I don't know why they hate him
First up is the psychological defence, followed by one or two things that have bothered me about the entire throw-out Ganguly episode.

kmp asks: Is it Sourav Mania?

Yes it is. I made it clear in this post not so long ago. Let me explain. Remember when Chappell came in and Ganguly was thrown out? Though a Ganguly (and Dravid) fan I had admitted to kmp that it was right that he was let go. If all we heard during that time was true - him not playing in Nagpur because of the quicks, being reluctant/frightened to face fast bowling, making VVS insecure by telling him that Chappell did not want him in the test squad, having lost the confidence and trust of the rest of the team - then he had to go. It is all summarized here in Chappell's letter to the BCCI president. Anyway, coming back to him being dropped - I thought it was deserved too, since his batting form was anyway plumbing the depths. But the Karachi test showed that he was trying and succeeding a bit too. Cricinfo analysed the two innings and gave a thumbs up (I wrote about it here). To be dropped after that - that was galling. They were playing with him like a cat plays with a mouse. If they were going to do that, they should not have picked him in the first place at all.

So there it is. I don't think Ganguly is anything more than a pleasure to watch when he is playing well. Not God - even of the off-side - or anything like that. And, no, I'm not saying bring him back. But he deserved to be treated well, even if he was dropped ultimately. I have always had a soft corner for the underdog - or losers if you will. I don't know if psychologists have a name for it, but that is how I am and evidently many others are.

There is one thing in Chappell's criticism of Ganguly which don't ring true. There is the reluctance to open. I seem to remember a particularly heated discussion sometime ago - about Ganguly being reluctant to give up the opening slot in ODIs to Tendulkar. True ODIs are a different ball game altogether - but the ball is equally new and hard and coming down as fast in ODIs too. And Ganguly faced Akhtar and friends quite grittily in the Karachi test didn't he?

There is also the flip-flopping on Ganguly opening/not opening in the first Test in Pakistan culminating in the heated discussion on the morning of the Test. Why was there a rethink on Ganguly opening - after him being picked as a opener? Did it have anything to do with the dead track? Did someone think - well, even Ganguly opening can do well on this track, and if that happens, it will only complicate things?

And what about the 'integral part of the team' as Chappell puts it in his letter, talking about VVS? He has been kept out of the Test side hasn't he? And if this 5 bowler combination works well, where does that leave Laxman? His form has not been anything worse than the 'master-blaster' - if anything, it is a bit better going by Cricinfo. Why the special treatment for Tendulkar? I don't believe in this aura thing, with all due respect to kmp. If it were true then only psychics should be allowed on the selection panel. I never believed the hype surrounding him much beyond the first five years or so. The real thing does not need that much of gloss. And it is not entirely spontaneous. Shekhar Gupta (of Indian Express) on a NDTV chat show mentioned how a critical article was withdrawn at the last minute due to pressure being brought on his newspaper not to print it. Genius does not need such protection. And one needs to only look at the extensive sympathetic coverage of the booing episode compared to the coverage of the incidents of stoning of Dravid's and Ganguly's houses during the last World Cup. It doesn't make sense in cricketing terms too. Are international cricketers kids who get overawed by a big name? And coming to others who have been persisted with, Sehwag too has not been in the best of form in Tests, of course ignoring those big innings on the horrendous batting tracks in Pakistan.

kmp asks: Why is it that people hate Chappell? For being antagonistic with Saurav? Just that - come on?

But I imagined I was being factual here. It is not only me talking about him being concerned only about the 2007 World Cup, but Indian Express too, here. The relevant quote here:
Someone should redraft Greg Chappell’s contract. The focus of Team India and its coach — and, apparently, the entire BCCI — seems to be one-day cricket and its Holy Grail, the World Cup in 2007. The fact that there are a few Tests to be played along the way appears incidental, and has left players unsure over how they should tackle a five-day game.
And in Chappell's letter to the BCCI he says :
I can assure you sir that all my actions in this matter, and all others since my appointment, have been with the aim of improving the team performance toward developing a team that will represent India with distinctions in Test match and one-day cricket.
But in the very next paragraph, he regresses to this:
In fact, it has only served to confirm that it is time for him to move on and let someone else build their team toward the 2007 World Cup.
Will the real mind of Chappell stand up please?

On the other hand, I think I do hate him. For being so confrontationist. For showing his finger. Or maybe just for guts he has shown in taking on the former captain and turning Indian cricket upside-down by all accounts.

*** kmp is referring here to the electronic discussion board in the company we both worked in before I quit, where he still works. In short, discussions get very heated in there, and loyalties to certain cricketing personalities are stronger than steel, and said loyalties are declared constantly to the irritation of people who are loyal to other greats, and endless/pointless debates rage during the cricket season and during the non-cricket season. I left two years ago, and certain controversies are still being discussed, one of them being who is better - Tendulkar, Dravid, or Ganguly. Another peculiarity is that loyalties cannot be shared - a Tendulkar fan almost always is not a Dravid/Ganguly fan, and so on. In fact, he usually hates the the other two. Any praise of Ganguly - even without any reference to any other cricketer, leave alone Tendulkar or Dravid - quickly becomes a discussion of who is better among the three. You get the drift I think. And we used to agree between the two of us that the guys who posted are mostly nuts/idiots - certainly the authors of someof the more stupid arguments. So it is not a compliment at all to be compared to them :-)

NPT, The Nuclear Deal, And The Flat Worlder

Venkat Krishnan (whom I do not know) roasts Tom 'Flat' Friedman on the latter's shabby article opposing the Indo-US nuclear deal.

In Which I Eat Crow

Yes, I take this back. Things do change. The way Dravid summed up yesterday's batting collapse to Dean Jones during the presentation ceremony was a refreshing change on a gloomy day for India fans. I was supporting England of course.

'It was bizarre', he said. Now, I've listened to captains in the recent past talk about humiliating defeats. Azharuddin had taken to mumbling incoherent nothings towards the end of his captaincy. He was probably afraid of mentioning money by mistake. Tendulkar was in and out before one could say 'we played like dumbasses'. Ganguly had just started mastering the art of stating the glaringly obvious, such as, 'we need to play well to win', then, he was captain no more. Yes that is a pun and I intended it, though Boycott would probably call it a joke. But I think no one, not even Dravid talking of the Karachi debacle, has gone beyond words with single syllables and commonly used terms.

With that in mind, bizarre as a word is different. It is exotic. It sets a new standard for captains. Kudos to Dravid. Being the modest man he is, he would, I'm sure, attribute it to 'contributions from the boys' and how he was 'happy with the boys' for suggesting the word to him.

However, I rush in where he has so gingerly tread - like a certain class of humans are supposedly prone to - and suggest another term to describe the defeat. It is called deja vu. Thus, he could have said, 'it was like deja vu all over again'. He has been part of many such defeats - in spite of his good performances - after all. And we the past and current fans of the team have not infrequently watched capitulation after capitulation on pitches that do not bear resemblance to plain glass.

But I don't think he reads me.

PS: Of course, many had thought that things would change drastically since the last captain was thrown out of the team. What with 'performance' being the sole criteria now, and the change in the working of the team, emphasis on discipline and on the process of winning, and other such new and innovative ideas. But I want to point out that they had no reason to assume any such thing. The task before the team management is not to win test matches. The self-described task before Greg Chappell is to win the 2007 world cup. And that contest does not have test matches. So there.



This interesting snippet from The Hindu:
Different facets about Rahul Dravid came to the fore at a felicitation function for the Indian captain on the eve of his 100th Test appearance organised by Bank of Baroda.

Hosted by Cricket Club of India on its lawns, club president Raj Singh Dungarpur set the tone with a tale from Pakistan about the former's hands-on leadership...

Dungarpur, team manager on the tour to Pakistan, said: "It was decided prior to the first Test that Sourav Ganguly would be asked to open the batting. I had a word with Ganguly who told me he was ready to do anything the team wants him to do," said the CCI president, adding: "Dravid had made up his mind that he would face the new ball instead of thrusting Ganguly into the situation and convinced the team management to accept his viewpoint."

Well, well, well! So the 'animated discussion' on the morning of the first Test could not have been about Ganguly trying to convince the cap and coach that he did not want to open and that he preferred coming down the order. So why was everyone on TV and some parts of the print media too implying that it was about the former captain refusing to open?

Here is the interesting mix of innuendo and unnamed sources served up by R Kaushik of DH on the front page the day after the incident (from DH, Jan 14 2006). He starts off innocently, planting the idea firmly in the reader's mind:
It will not be prudent to state that Ganguly was making a case for himself in the middle-order once it had been decided that he would play in the first eleven;
However after pointing to Ganguly's reluctance to open and a sprinkling of data on how he fared when he opened (badly), he throws all prudence to the winds and ends with the following:
It is quite possible that the debate in the morning was Dravid insisting that he would open the innings, and Ganguly countering that since he had been drafted into the eleven as an opener, he will discharge that responsibility. A team source, however, said the former captain desired a ‘rearrangement’ to the batting order -- whatever that means.
This is one hack who has sold his soul.


Just Deserts

I'd mentioned this US Congressman's unique approach to raking in the money here. He got his just deserts today. 8 years in the pokey.

And we are still letting all and sundry get away with murder. I'm not even talking of the Jessica thing.