Critics Corner.

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Ganguly: Against the Wall?

Posted by Sports Snob on December 13, 2006

 

Tony Grieg once famously remarked during 1996 when India was touring England, that 1973 was the best year for Indian cricket. It was not just because it was the year that a certain Sachin Tendulkar was born, but because the year also saw the birth of the two batsmen that Grieg claimed at that time had the capability to overshadow the genius of Tendulkar; Sourav Ganguly, ‘The Prince of Calcutta’ and Rahul ‘The Wall’ Dravid. Both made their debuts at the Mecca of cricket – Lords, and both announced their arrival in typical fashion. Saurav Ganguly, at number 3, smashing 20 boundaries, a good chunk of them in the point region that he made his own, and scoring a 131 that is still etched in many a cricket fan’s memory. Rahul Dravid, coming as far down the order as number 7, scoring a patient workman like 95, with hardly half a dozen hits to the fence, but showing enough resilience and skill to prove to the selectors that he was the answer to all of India’s batting crises. Of course, as the years passed by, a lot of things changed. Rahul Dravid soon became the greatest Indian batsman to have batted at number 3, and Ganguly slowly slipped down the batting order as far down as number 7, and eventually out of the team. With Ganguly back in the scheme of things, this might be an opportune moment to reflect on the paths that the test careers of these two batting stalwarts have taken over the past decade.

The Prince

After a blazing start to his test career, though there weren’t too many memorable knocks (with the exception of probably the Brisbane ton which set the tone for India’s awesome display for the rest of the tour), Ganguly’s ability to galvanise his side into a fighting unit, his ability to effortlessly pierce a 7-2 offside field when he was in the mood for it, his aggression that was a rarity among Indian cricketers, and to some extent the destruction he havocked at the top of the Indian ODI top order meant that Ganguly’s position in India’s all-star batting order was relatively safe and cemented.

But then, post 2004, the downward slide took a turn for the worse, patchy batting form aside, his injuries, some real, and some apparently-not-so-real meant that he missed quite a few matches, where Dravid riding the crest of his life, would lead quite impressively (impressively enough to even let critics praise in hindsight the decision to declare an innings when Tendulkar was on 194*). The powers-that-be soon realised that Ganguly’s captaincy skills were not enough anymore to override his batting failures, and after the much talked about Ganguly-Chappell fiasco, the board decided that it was time to take away the crown from the Prince.

The Wall

Unlike Ganguly who took the scene by storm, Dravid almost nudged into the team without being noticed. Over the next few years, with his dependable batting, he laid stake and won his rightful number three position. He was building his career as he did his innings. He recognized fully well, the importance of staying there and that the runs and power would both come to him when they were due. Over this period, he proved himself to be the complete team man: batting at number five if required, keeping wickets in the shorter version.

Dravid’s batting is the work of a mechanic. Imagine Dravid batting and the picture is one of immense concentration, sweat dripping off the forehead, the perfectly poised head, the back-lift just right. When the stroke is played, the head is steady, the footwork decisive and the follow through complete. Every ball is a test and every shot is an answer, evaluated in terms of runs and correctness (defined by a copybook). He was making runs where everyone else was failing and significantly, when everyone else was failing. The chips are down? Dravid is the man. He had become the most prized wicket for any opposition. Dravid was also the poster boy of the Indian middle class: an educated youngster who had worked hard, understood his limitations and risen to the top through sheer hard work and strength of performance in the domestic league. Dravid’s was another face of the new India, reflecting a quiet confidence of the times.

Over the period of the Ganguly captaincy, Dravid had risen up to the top rungs of power and was the trusted ally of the Prince. When the opportunity presented itself, Dravid took over the reins with a defining victory in Pakistan. As a respected senior, an astute thinker of the game and the most prolific batsman, Dravid seemed the right man for the job. In fact, Team India was as much Dravid’s as it was Ganguly’s. He had the support of all members and with Greg Chappell backing him, was turning things around for the team. The team had become the most successful chasers in history, youngsters like Raina, Dhoni and Pathan were playing well, Dravid was batting well, the birds were singing and spring was on.

The future

The honeymoon is now over: poor forms of Sehwag and Pathan, dismal Champions trophy performance, inept display in South Africa means that Dravid is under some pressure. And to strengthen the middle order, Ganguly has been resurrected. It will be interesting to see what happens in the upcoming series. Ganguly has shown that he is a hard man to keep down. With the fighting innings in South Africa he has indicated that he is likely to breathe fresh life -or atleast try to- into his rather ordinary test career. Dravid is too much of a team man and nice guy to field anything but the best eleven of the fittest for the test. This probably means that Ganguly will play the first test against the Proteans. But with all this history behind them, how will their relationship develop from this point on? As a lover of Indian cricket, I hope to see another successful Ganguly-Dravid partnership. Ganguly batting in the form that earned him praises in Brisbane and Dravid doing what he does best, bat intelligently and score prolifically, and a resurrected Indian team coming away with a drawn Protean series would be a good start.

Will we see a beautiful friendship or are there more surprises in this story? I don’t expect another era of Ganguly captaincy but we will wait and watch this space for further developments.

Prof and Thejaswi Udupa

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21 Responses to “Ganguly: Against the Wall?”

  1. ©hinaman said

    Many years ago, I played guitar in a band. So did a college mate of mine. I had learnt to play by spending hours practising scales and chords and working out my riffs before hand. I was considered a good musician, the backbone of the band.

    My mate, on the other hand, never bothered to learn from the books. He was born to play the guitar, and he played effortlessly, beautiful stylish leads. From his heart and his mind.

    His spontaneous music always had an edge over my preconstructed and much rehearsed passages. Boy, did I admire his skills? Yes, grudgingly. But we happily played together because we valued each others contributions. We had a good four years before career and work split us up.

    That is how I see the difference between these two players. Both brilliant in different ways. Not too difficult to see who is which. Too difficult to compare in their individuality.

    They both have their strengths and weaknesses. But both has in the past and should in the future be able to contribute to the team’s success in their own ways.

    How they proceed from here is purely based on how they see and value each other. And how much they are prepared to sacrifice for the sake of ‘Team India’.

  2. Wimpy said

    Strong essay, guys! yeah, ganguly is definitely in for the first test – if not for anything else but on “form”. would be really nice to see him do well become a regular in the team.

  3. Kesavan said

    You never know, Ganguly might still be back as captain. Who expected Azhar to get a second chance at captaincy after Sachin took over in 1996?

  4. […] Prof and Thejaswi Udupa at Critics Corner take some some time off to reflect on the cricketing careers of Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly, mulling over what lies in the future for them. […]

  5. sriram said

    GANGULY,born great&acheived greatness. GANGULY’s presence itself acts as a booster to this cheap team.GANGULY should definetly be the captain.His presence makes the players feel couragious… He must and will become captain once again…………

  6. vijay said

    i am very much interested to see the champ back in action. v must b really proud to have a player like him,because he is the only patriotic player in tis team.no doubt tat he will once again b the captain.EAST OR WEST DADA IS THE BEST…

  7. Ravi said

    i dont think ganguly will become captain again. yes, azhar did but the circumstances were totally different compared to recent happenings. even if he does, i would oppose it for the sake that it is time the team groomed someone to captain the team in the future. this is something we have never done since all our captains have been picked by default most of the time..

  8. Thejaswi Udupa said

    @ ©hinaman – good analogy there… continuing on those same lines, would the band sound just as good if you and your friend decided to regroup again? That, I guess is the core question in the case of Dravid and Ganguly…

    @ Wimpy – …on ‘form’, Pathan should have made it to the team for the first test as a batsman. He hasn’t. It somehow takes more than just form to get into the playing 11 in an Indian team. Might be bad for cricket, but is much fun for us armchair-conspiracy-theorists. Anyway, seriously, for the sake of Indian cricket, I do hope Ganguly clicks…

    @ Kesavan – …given the sordid saga behind his ouster from captaincy, I pretty much doubt if he’ll be made captain again. But then, this is Indian cricket…

  9. Thejaswi Udupa said

    @ Sriram – there is no doubt about Ganguly’s ability to inspire and bolster confidence, but it was his dismal form that let him down in the past. In fact, there was a point of time, when the idea of non-playing captain would have made a lot of sense for Team India…

    @ Vijay – yes, man.. Dada can use all the support and cheering he gets.

    @ Ravi – agree with you on that, making Ganguly captain again would be sort of a regressive move. If at all Dravid needs to be ousted from the top-post, then we’d rather do what SA did post WC-2003 (making a rookie Graeme Smith the captain) than fall back to Ganguly’s captaincy…

  10. ©hinaman said

    Good question. I cannot answer that, as we have lost contact for about 10 years.

    But I have left only the fond memories and can only wish we could play together again.

    I know I have, (and surely both of us) mature as time goes on and learn from past mistakes, so as not to commit them again in future.

    (At the risk of revealing my old fashioned taste in music), most bands sounds better on their reunion tours, Pink Floyd and the Who for example.

    So why not in a Dravid & Saurav reunion concert @ the Wanderers’?

  11. DS said

    When India flew out to the West Indies earlier this year, I wouldn’t have bet a single penny on Ganguly making it back into the TEST team, forget becoming captain. Now, he is back in the test team for his ‘experience’.

    A couple of comments in this section made me wonder if Sourav could ever become captain again. The similarities with Azhar coming back and leading the team are there. So, while the possibility of Ganguly leading in the future cannot be ruled out, considering that this is Indian cricket we are talking about, the effectiveness of such a decision, if at all that were to happen, don’t quite look so promising.

    Unlike Azhar’s reign, Ganguly’s reigned over GANGULY’s India. He was a decent test player, and a devastating ODI player (worryingly, in Indian cricket, the latter seems to matter more than the former), who imposed his presence both on the field and off the field (selection matters particularly).

    Through this effort, he forged a team, HIS team, hinged around himself (in the limelight, for both the right and the wrong), Dravid and Wright (both of whom shunned the limelight). It was a glorious (relatively speaking) period, where we almost DOUBLED our previous number of away victories. Anyone that followed Indian cricket through the 90s should understand the value of the following statement…”Under Ganguly, India won test matches in England, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Pakistan and Australia”….SURREAL!!!

    We are definitely better at winning abroad now. We owe a big thank you to Ganguly’s India for that. However, we need to take the next step. And as someone who has immense belief and respect for the Dravid-Chappell duo, I am hoping that WE are patient with them to work on their ideas and build a team for the future.

    They are going to make mistakes. They are going to make blunders. Everyone makes them. Ponting made blunders that made Aus lose the Ashes! I am hoping that we can be patient with them and ride out the rough period to pave the way for a better *system*. That is the key. Individual series victories can only do so much. They can inspire the next Dravid and Kumble, but they cannot produce 3 Dravids and 2 Kumbles.

    Too often, I notice former cricketers being xenophobic. They indicate that Aussie ideas can never work in our system. Looking back, India never ever had a world beating era. We have always been talented under-performers. So, what is the harm in being open to new ideas? Really, what do we have to lose??!!!!

    Ganguly coming back smacks of a public appeasing decision and THAT is NEVER going to help us in the long run, irrespective of his performance in the coming series. Too often, our criticism of the team management seems to vary from session to session of a test match. Reading through the bashing in the papers, you would have to assume that this team hasn’t won anything for years. Contrarily, we won our last AWAY TEST series! Surely, there is more wrong with the *fans* of Indian cricket than the team itself.

    Having said all that, here’s wishing this fighter all the best for his future! May Indian cricket win!!!

  12. Z said

    DS: Completely agree with you with regards to Ganguly the captain, ex Indian cricketers. And it looks like India is going to wrap up this first test. Who would have bloody thought!

  13. Z said

    Chinaman: Floyd, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Who etc etc will never go out of fashion🙂

  14. DS said

    ’twas a wonderful weekend. Never mind that sleeping at 7am on both Fri and Sat made my Sun night (after the match) a sleepless one. The result more than makes up for a ‘case of the Mondays’ 🙂

    For sheer joy, bowling out SA for 84 is going to be hard to beat. Fantastic seam and swing bowling from our opening bowlers. The 7 wicket burst is going to live long in memory.

    For me, the only disappointing aspect of the whole match was that, even during the weekends, the rivetting action was played in front on empty stands. Wondering if it was similar when Aus came over to SA. Any clue?

  15. Liju said

    In my view Dravid ad Ganguly should play together for the better future of Indian team. Both of these Players are responsible for the better standard of Indian team, its far better than earlier like playing around with one player,- Sachin. So the friendship between them should maintain and We need better partnerships. Appeal to Dravid— Please consider his (Ganguly’s) emotions in mind as a good loving friend. To Ganguly— What ever he(Dravid) doing will be good for you. In our view he is molding your mind as a Most powerful strategic professional than a emotional driven person. He has the right to do that because he is your friend. We need both of you for India for a long term.

  16. ©hinaman said

    I presume it is appropriate to revisit this log again.

    We are into the third test. The euphoria of the first ever win in SA was wiped away in the second. The third is still all to play for.

    Where is Ganguly now, in relation to ‘the Wall’?

    Ganguly has shown us that fighting spirit in him has not died. He took the short balls, his nemesis, on head and body, but instead running, time and time again he took the fight to the SA bowlers. He still has the ability to adapt to the varying requirements as the innings progresses.

    We are now seeing a slump in Dravid’s batting. Granted in the second test, his dismissals were negated by technology, but he was not given out unfairly when he was in full flow. He was struggling and his misery was shortened by the dismissals.

    Is the responsibilities of a captain taking its toll? I believe with the openers and top order failing so frequently, Dravid is struggling play his natural game. His defensive approach drops the run rate, letting the bowlers to dictate. Changing gears and speeding up is not his game.

    If as anticipated, Ganguly had continued to fail, it would have made it easier for all concerned. But if things progresses as we see now or worsens, with Dravid in a batting slump, should he still lay claim to the captaincy? The arguments that pushed ganguly off his leadership should apply to all.

    Ganguly’s return to form may cause more problems than we realise.
    ____________________________________________________________

    best wishes for the New Year everyone.

    My cricket blog (The ‘Silly Points’) has moved to http://thesillypoint.com/blogs. In case anyone would like to visit.

  17. @©hinaman: The third test has been lost. And yes, Ganguly has shown courage, apllication and that he still has the will to fight. Dravid has hit a bad patch and the same criteria as for Ganguly will be applicable. But remmeber, Dravid’s patch isn’t like Ganguly’s. He did make over 1000 test runs at an average of around 60 last year to be our leading batsman. Ganguly’s horrific form was over a significant period of time.

    I do believe that if we don’t find a stable pair, we are going to reduce the number of test runs Dravid can make. But the captaincy taking its toll, I don’t think so.

    There have been many comments on Dravid’s style of batting. First, he can accelerate if and when he wants to. He has demonstrated this. Second, he has extremely successful doing what he has, why change?

    Aren’t we jumping the gun speculating on ganguly’s return to captaincy. After all, he has just returned to form.

  18. awmyth said

    Dravid has been captain since Aug/Sept 05. Which involved series against the SL, SA, Pak, Eng, WI, SA again, with the Tri-nations and the ICC trophy for good measure.

    That he with Chappell and More did not get it right, the proof is Ganguly had to be recalled. Remember it was stated by More that Ganguly will not be recalled as long as More held office; nothing to do with Ganguly’s form.

    Ganguly did not lose captaincy because his inaptitude at being a leader, he lost it in a power struggle with Chappell, his slump in form was used to full advantage. Look around now. The amount of voices now agreeing that Dravid’s captaincy is too timid.

    And I disagree when you say he can accelerate if/when he has to. The truth is he cannot accelerate. Whenever he tries to, he gets out. That was his problem in SA. With the openers and the top order persistently failing, he had to get quick runs, and was beaten time and time again.

    He has a very restricted style of batting that relies on other quick fire batsmen to keep up with the required run-rate. The Test match win in WI was a situation where on a freakish pitch, the run getters could not survive, it was one occasion where his style of batting got us victory.

    Even if we do not jump the gun, we have to take quick decisions. The World Cup is not far of. That is ofcourse based on what is our real priority. To win the World Cup, or to protect Dravid’s (definitely his ODI) captaincy.

  19. @Awmyth: While I agree that Dravid will not hit 6s and 4s to make his runs, he is quite adept at rotating strike and keeping the scoreboard ticking in the ODIs. If you remember, during our golden chase period, he made significant contributions with the bat… and with good strike rates mind you.

    Ganguly’s removal might have also been due to the Chappell misunderstanding but no one can overlook his terrible run with the bat. Really, Ganguly’s test batting was woeful. Look at his test batting record and Dravid’s!!! Freakish or not, we won a test series in West Indies and Dravid won it for us.

    We have to take quick decisions but not mindless ones. I have myself wondered on this blog whether Dravid’s days as a captain are numbered. Also wondereed whether he continues simply because there don’t seem to be any alternatives. But then, his record was fairly decent till the first half of 2006. I don’t think it is fair on any other player to thrust the captaincy at this late stage. We have chosen Dravid. So, let us be patient. He will deliver.

  20. PRASANNA KUMAR said

    I’m ganguly’s ever great fan !
    NO matter who is captain for winning india Ganguly is Captain
    Everybody knows the hero – THE HERO
    many think sachin or dravid is better and best!
    for them
    ” Ganguly is King Of ALL TIME CRICKET
    Sachin is a selfish cricketer
    Dravid is a good player but no one can say Anybody
    is best if compare to REAL KING GANGULY”
    mail me at d_clifford2000@yahoo.co.in +0091 – 9941908799

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