23-Dec-2006

Some More Cricketing Fun

kmp sends in a bunch of mails about a bunch of cricket posts. I'll copy them below first, and later discuss them in the same order.

Re Harmless Fun he writes:
I was watching the TV night before these headlines ( I mean when he[Ganguly] was selected, but not yet in SA)…Rajdeep Sardesai’s prime time select panel included Mohinder Amarnath (understandable – original comeback-man ), Saurav’s biographer, and CPI-M MP Gurudas Dasgupta. Now, I don’t know what this groaning Marxist was doing there to discuss capitalistic cricket, and a rich main’s come-back (both out of place with their ideology). His point was, he was thrown out “un-ceremoniously” but he agreed that he should be dropped if he does not play well in future. As far as I know, he was not playing well when he was dropped so I attached more importance to the “ceremony” part. Next time, Greg should give more importance to that – my opinion. The biographer was almost crying (adding to that his Bengali accent made me feel that he was really crying) and his only concern was how he will be welcomed in the dressing room by two men – Captain and Coach. And, he repeated it three times. Again, the “ceremony” part crossed my mind ;-)

Now, with this background – I was bit more curious than usual with the newspapers and I found the “news” apt – although I was disappointed not to find any mention about the ceremony in the news.
Re Good Old Movie Plot he writes:
I differ. It still makes a “Good-Old-Movie-Plot” though – in many movies the protagonists are not always the good guys in the beginning, they become one later ;-)

I do not think dropping Ganguly was wrong then, he was not playing well – period. I did not believe that it was cricketing reason that made him to be picked, and I thought “they” were doing wrong again, however I was proved wrong (mind you, that does not mean I was wrong earlier – the dropping part). Anyway, it was good to see him among the runs, and those flowing vintage offside drives. In fact this makes me believe that dropping him has done him good, if nothing else the *grit* is back (coz I haven’t seen him playing with the same grit when he was out of form and in those matches we lost after the world cup)
And finally re And The Brickbats Keep Pouring In he has this to say:
Consider the awfulness of what might have been. If Yuvraj Singh hadn’t ruptured himself playing kho-kho or kabaddi or whatever else Chappell considers a necessary cricketing skill, he would have played the ODI series. Had we won or even drawn the ODI series, Yuvraj would have been a certainty for the tests, and had Raina managed a couple of fifties, he would have been rapidly translated into the test squad too. Ganguly wouldn’t have been recalled, nor would Zaheer, and Laxman would still have been the wallflower in the dressing room, not the vice-captain of the Indian team. Harbhajan, had he taken a handful of wickets in the ODIs, would have been preferred to Kumble and the first test at the Wanderers wouldn’t have had a happy ending.

Usually you should not use as many “ifs” to prove-a-point. With all the ”if”’s he says the first test at the Wander’s would not be a happy ending. My question is what’s the point if (oh, not again) we add one more “if” at the end: “if India had won the wanders test” with those 50s, 100s and couple of wins in ODI… ;-)
1. I haven't watched Rajdeep, and neither - to keep it balanced - whoever is his counterpart at his ex-employer, for a long time. They strain my brain cells. Thus I missed this humour-fest. But the MP was on probably because Rajdeep - always an eye on the TRP - invited him. And, hey, Das Kapital does not mention cricket - it does refer fleetingly to BCCI hoarding money in its grubby fists, but definitely not cricket. However, should an MP be spending time gassing about cricket on national TV at all? I'm not sure.

I don't know what the biographer was expecting, but the point I was making here was that the reports were mostly probably inaccurate. The Deccan Herald line I quoted has to be an outright lie. If the think-tank weren't averse, they would have said so, and DH would have reported so long before Ganguly landed up for match practice. I didn't read anything remotely suggested that the think-tank thought so. Even the warmth mentioned in The Hindu is a bit hard to believe exists. They are all professionals - and being one myself, I know that one cannot go around with scowls on one's face and mouthing personal invective when one is putting in a day at the office. All I was saying was: spare me the false sentimentality. And Indian Express actually did that in a report titled "Ganguly back: handshakes but no happy family photo-ops yet" (italics mine throughout the post):

Around 10.30 am, Ganguly walked into the Willows hotel, two kilometres away, blazer in place, the smile, too. A quick change of clothes, one final turn towards the ground, and he stepped out quietly, specks of bright grey glowing beneath the India cap.

Where is Greg Chappell?

The Australian coach, whose leaked email spelt the beginning of the end, was a short sprint away, studiously watching the nets, calling up young pacer VRV Singh for a chat. He never turned this way.

Unfazed, Ganguly dragged his kitbag across, knelt down and started unpacking, stopping briefly to exchange quick handshakes and smiles with Munaf Patel, MS Dhoni, and Sreesanth - Dhoni had made his debut under Ganguly, the India captain.

Then, the big moment. Ganguly got up, walked across to Chappell.

As they shook hands, ears perked up all around the wire mesh, struggling to catch the few words that were exchanged. “He said, Welcome back, mate.” “No, he asked is it good to be back.” “I don’t think so.” Chappell smiled, Ganguly, too, a quick handshake and it was down to cricket.

... Just before he went in to bat, Ganguly did walk up to Rahul Dravid. They had a small chat of their own, both struggling to meet each other’s eyes. Remember Dravid the wicket-keeper?

A much more realistic report. Note especially the lack of "Welcome back" shouts and warm handshakes.

2. I believe no one is good or bad - one's actions are. Leaving that profound philosophical statement aside, I was thinking more of a good 'old' movie plot, indian movies at that. The norm there: heroes start good and remain good whereas the villain starts bad, meets his comeuppance and turns over a new leaf :-) And I believe I had not even brought in morality - just a wrong done to a man. Whether he was good or bad - not mine to know!

I have to point out one thing in kmp's response however. This is not consistent: when Ganguly is dropped it is because of cricketing reasons, but when he is picked it is just politics. If you concede that players get picked to the Indian cricket team for non-cricketing reasons, then you need to concede that players get dropped for non-cricketing reasons too - unless the facts say otherwise. And I don't see many facts out there to suggesting that he was recalled due to politics, in the newspapers which had cooked up all kinds of canards against Ganguly when he was dropped (For instance, the big argument with Dravid as Chappell watched, before a test in Pakistan when Ganguly was reportedly arguing vehemently against opening the batting. Needless to say this turned out to be false). And nothing else has changed apart from the chairman of selectors. The comrades are still holding up the government, same then as now. But there is a lot to suggest that his recall for for cricketing reaons. The editor of Cricinfo himself takes over:
Not much should be read into the meeting between Sharad Pawar, the BCCI president, and the selection committee this morning, because Ganguly's fate had been decided earlier. Indeed, Cricinfo broke the story on Tuesday.

So what does one make of it? A knee-jerk reaction to a batting crisis? The irony cannot be missed: Ganguly, whose decline as a batsman has been attributed primarily to his vulnerability to the short ball, has now been picked to strengthen a batting lineup that has been systematically dismantled by the surgical, relentless use of bounce.

It can also be seen, however, as a pragmatic, immediate measure that wagers heavily on Ganguly's Test-match experience and his innate fighting abilities. His finest hundred came at Brisbane in 2003, the first Test of a hard tour, when India were four down for 80 in the first innings and Australia's fast bowlers were smelling blood. It was a brave and a scintillating hundred, compiled as much through skill as through sheer mental strength.

But by the time he'd lost his place in the Test team, he was back to chasing ghosts: even medium pacers were bouncing him out. India will hope that the time in the wilderness would have created a will strong enough to carry him past his shortcomings.
...
While it is inevitable that Ganguly will dominate the headlines, the much bigger issue is why and how his selection was necessitated. The truth is that once again Indian batsmen have been mercilessly exposed on harder pitches, and the selectors didn't really have too many options after the young men in whom they'd placed their faith failed make the grade. The selectors had the choice to let them learn from their failures or opt to try damage control. The passions involved in cricket in India are just too high for the selectors to be able to ignore the immediate. And the reality is that beyond Ganguly there was not much to look at anyway.
And as it happens I hold the converse view hence the movie storyline : I believe his being dropped was for non-cricketing reasons and that his recall was for cricketing reasons. And I think the facts bear me out. I've given the argument for the second part of that view in the preceding excert from Cricinfo.

Now, about his being dropped. As I'd mentioned here, I fully agreed with Ganguly being dropped when it first happened. But when he was toyed with during the Pakistan tour and after doing quite well in the one test match he played (according to Cricinfo, which I'd quoted in my post then), was dropped again, that suggested batting form was the least of it. He had shown that he had the determination and the ability too. He could have been retained for the Test side at least - if the coach was keen on youth and building a team for the World Cup. Yet he was dropped. And Chappell's email itself confirms this viewpoint. Bad attitude, deviousness, selfishness, cowardice, lack of respect. All there, bad batting form being just one reason, and not the main reason at all according to it.

And there is the Laxman angle too - he was dropped soon enough after Chappell had claimed that he was an 'integral part of the team'. And knowing how that worked out for Laxman, one wonders about the email. Whatever. There were non-cricketing reasons. In addition to the above there was a new coach with revolution on his mind. Add More to the mix and the picture is complete. And it can't be cricket when others were and are still given a free pass in spite of their non-performance. Tendulkar and Sehwag coming to mind immediately. As Ganguly said in his interview after the SA test - 'Tendulkar will never be dropped'. Envy maybe. But true.

3. Like Siddhu says - If 'ifs' and 'buts' are pots and pans then there would be no tinkers. In this case, if kmp's 'if' were added to the scenario, we wouldn't be discussing Ganguly's recall, and Laxman would still be watching the match on telly instead of being the vice-captain. And I wouldn't be writing this post at 2 am!

To clarify again, my main point was about the coach and his gobbledygook, and his willing doppelganger. Handing it over to the Editor at Cricinfo again from the same piece (italic not mine):
Indian cricket, you could say after reading the names in the Test squad, has completed a full circle. Prima facie, it would seem that the Greg Chappell-Rahul Dravid revolution has ended, or at least been temporarily suspended, and India are back to where they were 14 months ago.

Youth has been jettisoned, the process has been buried and, quite incredibly, Sourav Ganguly is back. And all this has happened so suddenly that it has left a lot of us struggling to comprehend its wider implications.

Let me go out on an limb and suggest one implication: this coach has wasted our time till now.
But having said that, these arguments will go on. I think it is futile for us to take Indian cricket as it stands right now seriously. Whether the team wins or loses, it really doesn't matter. It is just a circus.

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