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March 18, 2000


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Ganesha says...

Armchair Expert

Ganesha says the sun rises in the East. And so will the fortunes of Sachin and Indian cricket.

I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. I said India would do better under Ganguly. I said it wasn't just the pitches that our team was having trouble coming to terms with. I said the change at the top would be the best thing to happen to Indian cricket. And I know my premature euphoria is a surefire invitation for egg on my face. But so what? The signs are good. And thanks to Ganesha, by the time this report is out, India would have won the one-day series.

India has won the one day series. Nagpur, where we play the final game tomorrow, is irrelevant.

But wait a minute. Forget Ganesha! Who is that man?

I don't believe it? That is…no, I can't say it. It is him. Sitting in front of Robin Singh. Did you see that? I can't begin to tell you how much that pisses me off. Him! In the Indian dressing room! I mean, after all the man has said about our team, he ought to fear for his life coming anywhere near the people he so loves to bad-mouth. In public! And yet, he sits like a king on a VIP seat. But then, everybody knows Mr. Jaywant Lele. (They don't have a choice.) And who cares about Robin Singh. He's just another unknown guy who happens to be around every time India needs him. (Time for to take a little mini-dedication here.)

Off the top of your head, pick three really close matches India has won. Okay, I know we haven't won many too but I'd say the one we pulled off in Pakistan came close to giving me a heart attack. (The one with a six by Rajesh Chauhan off the last over from Saqlain?) And then, there were the two humdingers in the series just concluded between India and South Africa. Well, so there you have it. Three close matches that India has won. Wow! Must have taken something special. A hundred by Ganguly? Yet another one by Sachin? A great knock by Azza? Wonder who was there to see the team through? Ganguly? Sachin? Azza?

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong! It was the guy we love to ignore. Yes…that's right. The same guy who quietly goes about his business. (While the others were strutting their stuff. Not the least Mr. Jaywant Lele.) Just thought we ought to make it a regular habit of recognizing the little performers in the team.

Happily enough, Ganguly seems to be someone who feels the same way about these unsung heroes. And he's made it a point to 'thank' the guys who made the significant 20s. Or a good spell by a bowler. (Like he lauded Kumble's excellent 10 overs for less than 35 in the fourth match.) Or any of the other guys who play the supporting roles. Guys like Robin. Like Joshi. We need to, as Ganguly put it "take care of them. Give them the confidence to perform." (It must be working. Because, quite frankly, I never thought I'd ever see Joshi batting with any kind of confidence.)

Speaking of confidence, while the captaincy seems to have done a world of good to Saurav's batting it seems to have done more damage than we imagined to Sachin's. And, at the risk of repeating myself (I must. What if the selectors decide to mess around with him again?), let's never forget that captaincy was affecting Sachin's batting. (Just in case the captaincy debate crops up again, don't mess with Sachin.) Doesn't matter that he was topping the averages. We all know what that means. In Sachin's case, nothing. He doesn't have a choice. He's so good, he'll almost always top the averages. Except maybe, when Saurav is captain. In which case, we'll have both firing. (Whee! What fun! Indian cricket is in for some good times.) But Sachin and the captaincy? Well, let's say he seemed so 'not' in it that the damn thing is still affecting Sachin's batting!

Which is all the more reason it has to be made clear to the people who decide issues like captaincy and selection, how important it is to get the decisions right. It's not just another decision you're making. The guys you're dealing with have little else besides cricket driving their lives. (At least for the next five to ten years.) So for god's sake get these decisions right. We know you guys wouldn't have had the guts to axe Sachin from the job. (Because you don't care enough, or just don't have the vision enough to see what's good for Indian cricket. You're too busy…never mind.)

Fortunately for us, Sachin saw what the job was doing to him. (Sachin might not admit it as much, but to most intelligent observers of the game it's clear as daylight.) His second stint was a truly horrifying experience for the man. And for everyone who truly loves Indian cricket. The effects of, perhaps, some of the hardest times Sachin has been through as a player, a leader and a human being have to have taken a toll on him. So what if he's God. He's only human. (Deeeeeeep!)

Proof? Is this the Sachin who took apart Warne and the rest of the Aussie think-tank the last time they were in India? Not yet. (But he's getting there.) The good thing is, the smile is back. Even if it's only, for now, when bowling. (You know…the one that reaches his eyes. The one, women just adore. And if you think that's all we women know about Sachin, you ought to log on to some of the chat at the live commentary on…then, you'll know how little you know. Know what I mean?) Err…sorry for that. Back to Sachin. The bowler.

The fact is, Tendulkar has always been a very capable attacking bowling option. Something Tendulkar seemed to have sadly forgotten when captain. (Log that on as yet another thing the captaincy took away from him.) Perhaps, it needed a Ganguly to rediscover Tendulkar, the genius who can bowl anything. In time, very little time, his batting will return. (See, I told you so. I wrote this before he scored the hundred at Vadodra.) After all, ridiculous as this may sound (armchair expert, what do you expect? Pearls of wisdom?), it mustn't be too easy for him to feel completely part of this winning side. Especially, as ex-captain of this very same team (give or take a couple of names), that taught you some of the more bitter lessons on life, cricket and both. Nobody finds it easy to deal with failure. Least of all, successful people. And for a better insight into the thought that might have been going through Sachin's mind on stepping down, leadership, success, failure and life, read Harsha's article here on He beat me to that one. (Did someone say, "Thank God?")

So, what does Ganesha have to say?

Ganesha believes enough has been said about all the right things Dada is doing as captain. About Sachin. About Ganesha! So, Ganesha advises you to enjoy the upswing in the fortunes of Indian cricket. And says India will bring home the cup from Sharjah.

And maybe Ganesha is right. The captain is hungry. The team looks hungry. There are more than a couple of guys aching to prove a point. A big name making a comeback. The selectors giving Dravid's confidence a much needed boost by making him vice-captain. (Just right. Not too much pressure to bog him down. And a bit of confidence to help him through a difficult time.) Jadeja, as a consequence, being made to work harder for a place in the Test side. (He must know that a vice-captain who can hold his place in both forms of the game is always a better option. And we know he wants, more than anything else, to be a regular member of this Test side.) So there are a lot of people wanting a lot of positive things from this team, in this team. Equally important, the winning habit might just be beginning to form. And the wickets in Sharjah will continue to help our strength, the batting, to fire on all cylinders. Hmm…or, as Tony would say, "Welll, what have we here? Could India turn this thing around?" Any bets. (Oops, sorry wrong choice of words.)

Of course, if it doesn't happen, you can always blame Ganesha. Or the bookies. Or…just don't blame the captain.

Armchair Expert

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