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In praise of Sourav Ganguly

August 21, 2003

Thanks to a four-month layoff from writing about cricket, I find as I start this column that there is enough grist for the mill.

Sachin Tendulkar gets tax exemption for his Ferrari? Excuse me -- on what grounds? And what sort of government policy is this, that makes Joe Citizen pay his taxes on time and in full or else, while exempting the rich and famous -- who can, in fact, afford to pay -- on the most frivolous of grounds?

Sunil Gavaskar takes off on sledging; Dennis Lillee bounces Sunny in turn. Jaywant Lele is sacked from the Baroda Cricket Association for financial finagling; he in turn decides to file suit.

The question of the World Cup contracts remains unresolved; Jagmohan Dalmiya talks of hiring private detectives to probe the workings of the ICC and its marketing partner; player contracts, meanwhile, remain up in the air despite numerous promises and twice as many implementation deadlines...

Nothing has changed, I notice.

In all this, however, there is one silver lining; one feel-good story that makes you believe that maybe things are changing, at least in some quarters.

A couple of months across, I came upon a news item that said Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly was, during the off season, focusing on training to ensure that he was fully fit and ready to take on the twin challenges, later this year, of the home series against New Zealand and the away series in Australia.

Sourav GangulySince then, there have been at least four different agency reports, in each of them Ganguly has talked of the demanding nature of playing Australia in Australia and asked his team to step up to the plate when it counts the most.

And now there is this: Ganguly ironing out batting flaws with Chappell

The story, by my colleague Faisal Shariff, says Ganguly, under the pretext of shooting an advertising feature in Australia, is training under none other than Greg Chappell in a bid to sort out his problems against short, rising deliveries.

Silver lining? This story is an entire silver mine.

First, the fact that Ganguly believes he has problems with the short, rising delivery and needs to work on that shortcoming cannot be over-praised.

The single biggest problem with the captain in this respect was that he spent a good part of the period 2001-2002 in denial. I have no problem, he kept saying -- and it does not need spelling out that until an individual becomes aware of a problem, he neither can, nor will, be able to rectify it.

That he has chosen to work on this with Chappell is equally praiseworthy. Coach John Wright is as good as it gets, but a specialist batsman can and does at times feel the need for specialised tips, and the fact that Ganguly recognises that need, and is prepared to think outside the box (after all, he could as easily have gone to Sunny Gavaskar) and to look to an Australian expert in preparation for a tour of Australia, indicates forward thinking.

Reason number three: It is inevitable that when the Indian team goes Down Under later this year, the Aussies will focus much of their energies on the job of cutting down Sachin Tendulkar; in the past, their theory, that if Tendulkar is taken out, the team will collapse, has paid them good dividends on home soil.

To do well in Australia, India needs not Tendulkar, but a team; it needs more than one person ready, willing, and able to stand up to the Aussies. A combative, match-fit Ganguly with his fear of the rising delivery exorcised, aided by the rock-like solidity of Rahul Dravid, are the additional strings the Indian bow needed; the three senior players all doing their bit in turn acts as an inspirational example to the juniors.

There are a dozen different ways in which things could still go wrong -- but at the least, the man who has to lead the team to Australia later this year, for the toughest challenge in contemporary cricket, is already thinking about it and working towards it, and that is the most positive thing I've seen in Indian cricket in a long time.

Footnote: This, in case you were wondering, is not going to be a series of columns of the 'I talk, you listen' type; rather, this is a participatory site -- and that means you get to do some of the work, too.

For starters, I'm rather curious to know what you make of the issue of India's under-19 tour of Pakistan being called off; see the story below:

Thaw is on, why the fuss?

Where do you stand -- pro-tour, or con? Why? If you think cricket between the two nations should be resumed, why? If you think not, why not? And under what conditions do you think the government should permit a resumption of cricketing ties?

I have a couple of thoughts on the issue, but I'd rather hear what you have to say, first.

Got any other thoughts -- on cricket/sports-related subjects -- that you want to share with the readers? Seen a story somewhere that interested you? Send them across. I don't promise to post every single response I get, but I do promise to read them all, and post a representative selection.


See you guys in here, in a couple of days.

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