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Reader's speak out!

March 31, 2005 14:16 IST

Name: Sriram Anand
Subject: Down with stats, go with gut feeling
Message: There is a large body of cricket fans that is "happy" at the loss in the Bangalore Test.

The reason being is the potential ouster of Saurav Ganguly as captain. There is no doubt that this will be a step in the right direction and a long overdue decision. The captain cannot be a passenger in the team unless he is a brilliant strategist who can catalyze his team.

This has not been the case over the last few months, whether it be tests or one-dayers. India has been carried along by brilliant individual performances from Sehwag, Kumble and Dravid that have contributed to the bulk of the victories.

However, the blame for the inexplicable pushing and prodding at Bangalore must rest with the captain and vice captain. Let us not forget that we are talking not just about Ganguly but about Dravid as well. Here is a man who, a week ago was being heralded as the Bradman of the modern age.

So, why does a Bradman of the modern age have to push and prod at full tosses and long hops on his home ground no doubt? Did Dravid play like someone coming off back-to-back match winning hundreds?

He lost the game for India much more than Ganguly. Let us also not forget our little master who became the leading run getter in Indian history. Well, what is the point? You are universally revered as one of the best batsmen in the world; bowlers have nightmares about you; you are playing at home on a pitch where the opposition batsmen were hammering your bowlers like club players. What do you do?

You fail to take advantage of a situation tailor made for you. Sachin could have played like he did that incredible day at the Wanderers in the World Cup. You could have created history by scoring your 35th hundred in grand style, but you chose to give it away in pusillanimous style.

Statistics mean nothing, only performance matters.

Unfortunately, the 10s of thousands of runs scored between Dravid and Tendulkar and the 150 plus tests played between them did not give them the confidence to give one back to the Pakistani's.

The pity is that Dravid and Tendulkar poked and prodded and took all the small talk from Afridi lying down. What would it have taken to go down the pitch and hammer a couple of balls? Could they not have taken a leaf out of Sehwag's book the other day when Sami was staring him down every ball. Sehwag just stood there and blasted the next ball through the covers, nobody moved.

Let us not make a knee jerk reaction out of this and make Dravid the next captain. I don't think that he deserves it yet. I think there is someone else who is much more deserving in this regard and that is Kumble.

He probably has a couple of years of Test cricket left in him, give him the one honor that will truly reward his undying efforts over the years. Nobody can doubt his grit and fighting spirit and who better to lead the country than the person who never says die? One look at his clenched face and determined eyes yesterday was enough to convince me that he deserves the job.

For one-dayers, I would suggest that we think out of the box and make Sehwag the captain. We are stagnating as a team in one-dayers, let us not forget that we got beaten by BANGLADESH recently. This is certainly not a situation that should be acceptable for a team that was in the world cup final 3 years ago. Let us hope that we are at a plateau below the peak and not at the valley!

Name: Suvadip Basu
Subject: Cheer up Captain!
Message: Dear Dada,

Its a pity that a lot of people are speaking about your batting in test cricket and your recent performances in tests are giving them enough fuel to keep the fire alive. Its a fact that you have two jobs a) captaincy b) batting.

Captaining INDIA is not a very easy job and you have done that wonderfully well. Be it in test matches or one dayers India has done consistently well under your leadership. But yes, we would like to see that graceful left hander who scored a hundred in debut at Lords followed by another one.

But recently it has been observed that you are not batting as easily and gracefully in Test cricket. I believe that the problem is more mental that technical. From the day Sourav Ganguly had come into international cricket it's a known fact that he does not have too many shots in the leg side and he is not comfortable with the short ball etc. But knowing all these facts the oppositions have not been able to stop you from scoring close to 15000 runs in international cricket.

SO CHEER UP CAPTAIN!!!!

Everybody knows that even if there is a packed off side field we will be able to see those smashing cover drives and furious cuts and your high sixes… The problem I believe is mental, nothing else. In Mohali, it was over defensive attitude , in Kolkata, it was poor shot selection and in Bangalore, it was sheer pressure that stopped you from playing your natural graceful game.

Please remember that it's your strengths that will help you to accumulate runs and not your weaknesses. For example the pull shot, you do not require to play that, you have enough shots in your armoury to score runs.

Dada, play as you always have -- stylish, graceful and in the words of Rahul Dravid "like god through the off side." You are a class player and you will definitely get runs.

Please do not care about your critics: These people have not scored 5000 runs in Test cricket and as far as there average is concerned it is not even 40!! So do not listen to critics. And for god's sake do not let this affect your aggressive captaincy.

You are the creator of "Team India," its you who has stood by your players in their bad times so don't worry everybody will be there with you and for you. Do not get carried away by the comments that there are certain players sitting, waiting to get in etc.

Let me put it straight for you. Yuvraj Singh is weak against spin and I am sure he would not have been able to save the match in Bangalore. I don't know why Dinesh Mongia is being termed as a class player and Mohd. Kaif has to wait because he has to mature. So don't worry on that end.

Your True Fan

Name: Manaswita Datta
Subject: Crazy about Cricket
Message: Is it correct to talk of or even imagine removing Sourav (the most successful captain of our country) just for being defeated in a single Test?

Right, he is out of form. But he has to face such a lot of criticism.

Did anyone ever think of dropping Sachin when he was out of form?

I feel people are either afraid to voice their opinion against Sachin or they are all anti Bengali, especially persons like Sanjay Manjrekar. His comments remind me of Dilip Vengsarkar. He said that he would love to sit in the commentators' box and pass comments from there than sweating it out in the middle. It is very easy passing comments from that box.

Name: Usha Padmanabhan
Subject: Ganguly as captain
Message:
We pay an enormous amount to the cricketers to do their job. Perks include a demi-god status. Ordinary individuals lose their job when they do it poorly so why shouldn't Ganguly?

This is not because he drew the series when he could have won it clear but because his captaincy was and is bad. Ganguly should be exclusively India's captain only against the Aussies, that's not because of his captaincy skills but because he can give flak as good as he gets.

Name: Bhaskar Rayavaram
Subject: Calling for Ganguly's Head
Message: I think calling for Ganguly's head is bit unfair. I am not going to reiterate what many would agree with, that he is the best thing happened to India cricket the way he transformed the bunch of talented cricketers into a "Real Team". There are other factors too. He persisted with players through their tough times. Many players would not have been in the Indian team now, if not for Ganguly's ability to identify talent and fighting his way for them in the selection times. Knowing what the traditional Indian selection criteria, we all know that is true and Ganguly should be given credit for that. Sehwag (making him opener, persisting with him despite his failures), Dravid (once a doubtful ODI starter and slow wall, now a match winner in both), Zaheer, Nehra, Kaif, Yuvraj, Bajji, Dinesh Karthik (normal way, but for Ganguly, he would have been dropped for 2nd test, where he scored 93), Laxman, Murali Karthik… all these players benefited from Ganguly's way of thinking.

Now he has couple of bad series and people are calling for his HEAD already!!! It was his innings in Brisbane that made India believe it can stand up to the best.

Of late, his confidence has suffered. He is too good a player to be sidelined now, at this point of his career. I know Saurav is no Sachin, but he needs to be given a chance to come back to form. I agree he needs to play domestic cricket to do that, sometimes players like Ganguly, shine in the limelight. Mark Taylor was leading England to victories all along, despite being in poor form for long time, entire team stayed behind him.

I am surpised to see none of the team members are standing behind their captain, when he went out of his ways to stand behind all these players one time or other… except may be Sachin.

It is time for them to say, "We are with you Dada. "

Name: Alok
Subject: 2 minute Cricket Noodles
Message: Written behind Maggi 2 minutes noodles pack:

Step 1: Boil one cup of water
Step 2: As soon as ganguly goes for batting, put the noodles in the boiled water and add the tastemaker.
Step 3: Stir till ganguly is on the field.
Step 4: As soon as ganguly is back in pavilion, your noodles are ready to eat.

Name: Srinivas
Subject: Tale of three captains!
Message: The last couple of days saw a tale of three captains!

There was Ricky Ponting who demolished the Kiwis with another thoroughly professional performance, Inzamam Ul Haq who showed amazing grit and aggression that belied his lazy temparament and then there was Ganguly, spineless as ever, unable to inspire his team to even a draw, when a victory wouldn't be unthinkable for the Indian team!

When Ponting came in to bat in the second innings of the test against New Zealand, the Aussies needed another 146 runs to win a relatively low scoring match. With the weather threatening to play spoilsport, Ponting inspired his team by blasting 82 runs in double quick time to take them to victory in just 29 overs! This after being offered light by the umpires when the score wasn't even 100!!

That is called leading from the front!

Inzamam had been under pressure from several quarters that felt that he was too laid-back and gentlemanly to lead a Pakistan team. He answered critics in the best possible fashion; by scoring a chanceless, majestic 184 on his 100th test and then marshalling his bowlers remarkably on the final day to set a new record for captains playing their 100th test!

That is called rising to the occasion!

When Saurav Ganguly came in to bat in the same match, all his team needed to do was to play out another 45 overs on a docile pitch in a very high scoring match! Due to some strange strategy of playing defensively, Dravid and Tendulkar, had spent nearly 170 balls between themselves, stonewalling the Pakistan efforts to get them out. (One refuses to believe the captain had nothing to do with that strategy, and it would be pretty damning if the captain says the team did something that wasn't his strategy).

Now all the captain needed to do was show SOME responsibility in playing out atleast a few more overs to eke out a draw! But to the utter surprise of Pakistan, and utter disappointment of India, he played a most inexplicable shot outside off stump to a part-time bowler like Afridi!

He stood his ground for a few minutes, probably realizing that these may well be the last minutes he would spend in the middle as the captain of team India.

That is called UN-INSPIRING!

It was fitting that he walked off to boos from the crowd! If Anil Kumble, who came at no 8, could thwart the Paki bowlers so comfortably and remain unbeaten, it is hard to understand the lack of commitment from the captain who would take the most credit if we did draw the match!

One needs to only look at statistics to see how much Ganguly has degraded as a Test player. Ganguly's average for this series was 9.6 runs!!! That is lower than even Kumble and Pathan! And his highest score was 21!

Only Zaheer Khan in this team of 12 failed to score more than 21, and that too since he played just one Test! In contrast, Sehwag and Dravid had Averages of 90 and 66 respectively.

There are some who say he is a good captain and is responsible for India winning matches. These ignorant people should have a look at some more statistics.

Inzamam averages 76.51 in his team's victories, which is fourth highest among batsmen who have been part of at least 20 wins.

That is what defines a match-winner.

And the second in this list is none other than Rahul Dravid, the man best suited to replace the arrogant Price of Calcutta. In victories, he averages 79.08, Sobers had an average of 77.42, Inzamam averages 76.51 and Greg Chappell has an average of 70.49.

Even if you look at past performances of the Captain, the same story of failure emerges. In matches since we visited Aus in 2003, the captain's performances have been embarrassing to say the least against all teams except for Bangladesh (the Pakistan performance is misleading since he played only one innings there).

Whereas look at Dravid's performance! He won us our only away series victory as well as our only Test victory in Australia for the last few decades! And if it wasn't for him and Sehwag, we could as well as handed over this series too to the Pakistanis in a platter if we had to depend on the captain!

I guess one doesn't need all these stats to show that Ganguly has become but a pathetic shadow of his old self. He is primarily in the Indian team as a batsman, and the captaincy is an additional responsibility. If he can't keep his place as a batsman, what right does he have to take up these additional responsibilities?

He has been lucky enough to have openers like Sehwag and class-acts like Dravid and Tendulkar performing time and again, not to mention the heroics of Kumble and Harbhajan. But one needs to make his own luck, and it is plain that Ganguly hasn't put in an iota of effort to complement this luck. He lost a toss against Inzamam in Bangalore after winning 5 tosses before this. Maybe that is an indication that the only thing in his favour, luck, has also turned against him finally!!

Name: Neeraj Anand
Subject: Sourav Ganguly's future

Message: Being a keen cricket follower, not only of Indian cricket but world cricket for many years, I have no reservations in saying that Sourav should be immediately dropped from the team in both the versions. (One-day & Test). I have always maintained that Ganguly has always been overrated be it as a captain or a batsman.

His temperament and technique is clearly short of Test level class and neither his captaincy is any thing to write about. He has always been a lucky captain whose players have provided the results, especially Anil Kumble, Dravid Tendulkar and Sehwag lately.

The real captains are those who are tactically brilliant like Mark Taylor, Stephen Fleming or captains who lead by example like Allan Border, Steve Waugh or Hansie Cronjie. I am sorry to say that Ganguly falls in neither of the grades and should make way for the younger lot. In fact Sourav, more of a spokesperson, in the recent past has been a complete liability to the team.

Name: Girish
Subject: Ganguly's batting...
Message: I'm pretty confident that there'll a good number of critics baying for Ganguly's head, after his appalling performance in the Test series against Pakistan.

I think even he knows that it'll be difficult for him to hold his place in the Test side, if he were not the captain. His performances in Tests since Gabba'03 (144) have been anything but credible for a batsman at the international level. He's struggled more often than not and in the process, gotten out on many occasions to balls that didn't deserve a wicket as much.

As Greg Chappell often says in his articles, when the mind is not clear and thinking not right, there aren't many runs that a batsman will score.

Ganguly, as a batsman, has lived more on the edge in the last 18 months and it's very clear his thinking about his batting is just not right. When India toured Australia in 2003-04, with the exception of SRT and VVS, all other batsmen went there with something to prove - their ability to make runs in the pitches down under.

Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, with their miserable averages worked that extra hard to get things right. With some tips from Greg Chappell on the nuances of batting, the result was evident in the first Test at Gabba - A brilliant 144, when India were in trouble.

Ganguly was in his elements - with blazing cover drives, avoiding the short ones with ease and keen to steal that single every time. Ganguly didn't do anything substantial during the rest of the series but he'd proven that he's the ability to get runs anywhere.

Though India didn't win the Brisbane Test, it set the tone for the series - Indians believed they could fight against the Aussie and score runs as well - an example set by their captain. Benefiting from a late Steve Waugh declaration, in the 2nd innings RSD too had enough time to find his feet and his shots, went on to score 600+ runs in that series.

Since that series, he's found runs hard to come by in all conditions against any bowling attack. During this series against Pakistan, he's looked completely out of sorts - often playing the wrong shot to the wrong ball and losing his wicket.

His first innings dismissal of Kaneria just proves how unsure he's against spinners as well. He has really looked well past the use-by-date during this series.

Maybe, it's time for him to give up his place - to one of the youngsters (read Kaif) waiting in-line; or maybe he should prove his critics wrong by scoring runs again (Unfortunately, we don't play another series of importance for the next 6 months).

Ganguly needs to look at himself as a player first, if the feeling is that captaincy is hurting his batting. The Prince, a pale shadow of himself right now, should redeem himself from this dilemma, he finds himself in at this stage of his career.

Ganguly is a fighter and he must believe that he can score runs again in Test cricket. He needs to sort out the cobwebs in his mind and evolve as a batsman at a level higher than where he is now. The faster he does it, the better it is for him and for India.

Name: Siddharth Bindra
Subject: Need new ideas, Team India!
Message: As I opened today's newspaper, a column in the centre of the sports page caught my attention. "Tendulkar becomes India's highest run getter" read the headline. On a day after India capitulated sickeningly to bowlers like Afridi and Arshad Khan on a docile 5th day Bangalore pitch, it was a revealing comment. It described, as nothing could, why India rarely play good, consistent cricket.

Indian cricket suffers from the curse of the individual achievement.

The headline could have said "Tendulkar fails again to see India through". It could have easily been "VVS is only special against Australia, not pakistan". At the least, it cetailny should have said "It's time to say ta ta to dada".

Instead it read "Tendulkar becomes India's highest run-getter."

The point has been made many times, but it's always worth repeating, in fact, worth rubbing it in the faces of some of our players. Indian cricketers are paid, adulated and worshipped like gods by a billion people.

They can get away with lack of talent (Ganguly), murder (Sidhu) and even a duty-free Ferrari which costs the country a few crores (we know who). In return all we ask for, from our gods, is a desire to play every game with passion.

Hell, we don't even mind if they lose, as long as they go down fighting. Is that unreasonable? The truth is this Indian cricket team has become bloated with self-importance and needs serious overhauling.

Some players, in the words of Chappell need a good kick up their back-side, others need to be dropped for a season and a couple need to be asked to go back to domestic cricket because they just aren't good enough to play international cricket.

That players like Ganguly, Tendulkar, Laksman, Harbhajan fall into the above 3 categories, shows the rot that has set into this team. The game will go on. New players will come on to the field. Nobody is above the game or the aspirations of a billion fans.