Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Goodbye Dada?

As an 11th grader I once wrote an essay on Sourav Ganguly which fetched me the highest marks in the class and made my teacher keep a copy of it. He had just won his first ODI series as the captain of the Indian cricket team versus the West Indies at Toronto. He was of course then only a stop gap arrangement and no one could have thought that he would go on to become India's most successful captain. It's pertinent, I think that I mention here that I am a Bengali born in Kolkata, although apart from frequenting my maternal grandparents' home in the first two years of my existence (they shifted base to Silchar after that), and occasionaly visiting the city to buy old books while on the way to someplace else, I have few memories of the city. So I am a Bengali but not a Kolkatan, two terms which are commonly mistaken to mean the same thing. Coming back to the essay, yes I wrote it because I was proud that Ganguly is a Bengali but mostly because no one had given him a chance to begin with. From the disastrous tour of Australia where he was accused of refusing to carry the drinks because he was the Maharaja which was followed by four years of exile, to the fairytale comeback with back to back centuries at the Mecca of cricket, Lords and Edgbaston to leading India, Ganguly's life had almost come full circle. I loved him for his silken cover drives, I loved him for his piercing square cuts but mostly I admired the fact that he had been able to prove his detractors wrong. Six years down the line as the most successful captain and the most hated man in Indian cricket finds himself sidelined partly due to his own flaws and partly due to the power play of the Board, it's time to ponder, is it goodbye for Dada.
To start discussing about Ganguly's career stats would be simply a waste to time because 15,000 runs later if a man still needs to prove that he is good enough for international cricket, then there's something seriously wrong with the system. I ain't contending the fact that his run of form has been woeful almost for the past 2 years and sooner rather than later he has to perform to justify his place. Both on and off the field, his greatest strength has always also been his greatest weakness. So you had the "In the off-side, first there's GOD and then there is Sourav Ganguly" compliments walking side by side with scenes of catching practice to the slips and the wicketkeepers. Here we had a captain who was not afraid to speak his mind out, who was not afraid of playing mind games with a certain Steve Waugh hell bent on conquering the final frontier, who got the team he wanted and backed the players he believed in. So whereas Indian cricket continued to thrive, lead by a captain who wore his passion on his sleeve (remember Lords, Natwest Finals), the same attitude got people questioning his methods of backing a few players to the hilt and ignoring others. He made many enemies in the media by his I-dont-give-a-damn attitude and reluctance to stick to the good boy image of a Sachin Tendulkar. He removed regionalism from the team by backing players on merit and so you now have Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Pathan, Zaheer and Sehwag forming the future of Indian cricket. He dropped himself down the batting order in ODIs to accommodate Sehwag, a huge selfless act considering the fact that he along with Sachin formed the best opening combination in ODI history ever. Meanwhile India scaled new heights, winning Test matches abroad and reaching the World Cup Finals. People said that he's got a very good team, it's nothing to do with him but the fact remained that on paper India always had a very good batting line up and so what couldn't be done by Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly, Azhar and Laxman in 2000 was done by the same team with a few changes in 2003 in Australia.
The point I am trying to question is why do so many people hate Ganguly so much even after all he has given to Indian cricket. Agreed he has his flaws, and over the past two years he has been out of sorts but I am surprised to see people actually booing him. What's amazing is nobody wants him to succeed, most want him to fail and rub his nose in the dust. So even at a comeback Ranji match he gets a green top to bat on! People just love making a fun of Ganguly. I also do at times jeer at him for the awkward way he fends at the short pitched delivery, for the way he gets out and his running between the wickets but I want him to do well which very few people do. If a Sachin or a Viru goes out of form we pray for him but I haven't seen anything of the sort happening for Dada except in Kolkata. I am yet to fathom the reason for this collective hatred that he is subjected to. Surely he's not the worst cricketer to have played for India but he is by far the most hated one. One very interesting viewpoint on anti-Gangulyism is this.
So is this the end of the road for Dada? Does he still have the stomach for a fight? Is this the last we have seen of Sourav Ganguly the batsman or will he make another comeback? For all those who miss his cover drives and lofty sixes, I just hope he has one last hurrah.


Anonymous said...

a poignant end indeed!
well, strong men with strong will and a rebellious nature have always evoked extreme is the case with ganguly, one either loves him passionately or hates him fiercely. i believe his fall through these two months in eyes of the public had been the handiwork of his detractors in the media, and now everyone is feeling sorry for him because they can clearly see after his performance in yesterday's test that he has been made an unfair victim...

Shravan K Mukhopadhyay said...

well written atish !!!
I loved DADA for the "f*&! u on the face" attitude ."Never cared for what they say, never cared for what they do and nothing else matters" other than a TEAM INDIA victory . He was [infact still is ]a reflection of a man who was passionate about the job assigned to him and had his own methods that were to a great extent successful what some people termed "dadagiri". Coming to the current scenario that DADA stands on, the Prince turned King has been now reduced to a mere pawn by the very powerhouse that made him. A victim of dirty politics, I strongly feel that he was included at first so that BCCI could get its money from the Kolkata Ind-SA match. I am sure had dada not being included india wud have played infront of an empty stadia.

zubin said...

I really cant understand why such a big hallaboo is being made on Ganguly's exit from the team. And anyways..(I hate to say this)..why is it that only Bengalis have been opposing the Ganguly exit? Does it befit the biggest democracy of India, discussing the "politics" behind Ganguly's dismissal in the Parliament, when there are much wider issues to be tackled. And it wouldnt come to me as a big surprise if the 42 member strong West Bengal MPs (cutting across party lines) were to withdraw support from the UPA government for the issue. And even Steve Waugh and Ian Healy were unceremoniously dumped, but there were no mass protests in Sydney then. Just goes on to prove that India yet has to develop as a country. And the Prince of Kolkatta, well he will remain that, but he'll be unfit to even become a pauper in other parts of India, or the world.

zubin said...

Remember when Sanjay Bangar (unfortunately for him) ran out Ganguly, he was never able to play another match after that. And Ganguly did not even come for the post match conference after that. And you say..he was a team player. He played for himself, and its only fair that he has been succeeded by the man who has always given his all for the Indian Team...Rahul Dravid, who is the ideal role model for a new India.

atish said...

Dravid is truly the role model for the new India, I agree with u Zubin on that front and he deserves the captaincy. But to say that Ganguly played for himself is a bit too much. Remember he dropped himself in the batting order to accomodate sehwag. Selfish?? And we shouldn't even try to compare ourselves with the aussies. they are far too professional than we are. Again u are right that such a hue and cry shouldn't be raised on one man's exclusion from the team but again the fact that almost the entire country now (not only bengal) feels that dropping ganguly from the third test was influenced by reasons more than cricket...proves that he deserved a bit more respect than that. I mean why isn't anybody blaming Chappel for anything. He says that ganguly has a role of a mentor to play one day and the next day he says Ganguly is worthless !!
And as far as only "bengalis" supporting him, that's the point i was trying to understan, is he that bad a player/ captain that he has no friends in the rest of the country??