Cricket maybe the white man’s game, but today it belongs firmly in the subcontinent, and more precisely in India. The mania for the game goes so far that it almost defines one’s Indianness. So when its most successful captain was dumped unceremoniously, it made for headline news. The echoes were heard in the hallowed corridors of the Parliament.
It all started in far away Zimbabwe. The new high profile coach, Greg Chappell, asked the Indian captain, also incidentally India’s most successful captain, that he should step down. Saurav Ganguly in characteristic manner answered the man with a scratchy century, but a century nonetheless. That done, Ganguly went to town with the coach’s request.
From then on it was a case of Ganguly vs. Chappell.
At the beginning of the war, the Ganguly corner was thin. He had Calcutta and a smattering of fans from the rest of the country. At the other corner was Greg Chappell, a huge part of the establishment, and a legion of cricket followers who believed that Ganguly was too highhanded for his own good.
To add to the twist, Ganguly was found unfit to play in the one day series against neighbors Sri Lanka.
When India thrashed the islanders from the south in the one day series, it seemed that the dropping of Ganguly was the right decision and that it would stick.
But then the Dalmiya camp decided to pull its weight. Saurav Ganguly was included in the test team selected for the first two tests.
It is not for nothing that Ganguly was a successful captain. He is a fighter, a spirit he spread in his team. Put him with his back to the wall and he’ll come up with the goods. The second test showed Ganguly at his fighting best. He held the middle order together when the top order was gone and helped India register a crucial test win.
By the time the test ended, Dalmiya and Co had lost the BCCI elections. The day of the victory was marred with the news that Ganguly had been dropped from the test side for the third test.
This is where the almost religious status of the game came into play. The entire country had just watched Ganguly at his fighting best. In a country where cricket is more passionately than it does politics, it was plain to see that his dropping from the team was not based on “cricketing reasons”, as every selector and person in power wanted us to believe. Slowly the news began to trickle in that coach Chappell and captain Dravid had informed the 5 wise men that Ganguly had no role in their plans for Indian cricket.
If that is the case why have a selection committee. We can just have the coach and captain select the team. The role of the selection committee is to select the 15 best cricketers in the country. The 15 must be selected on the basis of them being bowlers, batsmen, or wicketkeepers. The captain and coach must then use this pool of cricketers to win games.
The entire episode smacks of Chappell carrying out a personal vendetta against a cricketer that has served this country and lead it to some of its greatest victories. This is definitely not in the best interests of cricket.