IPL April 14, 2010

The Sourav Ganguly self-help programme

You’re a useless waste of space and now you can pay for the privilege of having a former India captain tell you so

‘You haven’t even learnt how to bring the car up to the door properly, have you? You sicken me’ © AFP

Have you got yours yet?

What do you mean you don’t know what I’m talking about? It’s the new IPL must-have product that is set to become a summer bestseller. Pull Yourself Together. Fast is a motivational course for office and home, from former Indian captain and self-help guru Sourav Ganguly. For a reasonable price, you get a book, a DVD and a signed photo of the author looking disdainfully past you.

Pop the DVD into your player and you will be immediately confronted with a close-up shot of the Kolkata captain’s face as he tells you that you are pathetic, that he can’t do everything for you and that if you carry on like this, God help your career. Apparently ITV are playing it to all their guest panellists, and though it hasn’t yet noticeably upped their game, it has reduced Graeme Hick to tears.

The book, meanwhile, takes the form of a motivational diary. Each of the 365 pages bears a personalised insult from the Maharaj himself. For example, in my copy, the entry for April 14th reads, “You write like an imbecile. Sort yourself out. Do you expect me to write your articles for you? God, do I have to do everything around here? Of all the appalling writers on Cricinfo, you are the most awful. Now get out of my sight.”

Firm but fair, I think you’ll agree.

You see, Sourav may look down on all of us (even you, dear reader), he may regard himself as the only Indian batsman who has ever been any good, he may have his purpley-gold clad troops cowering in their mini Perspex pavilion, and he may in his imagination picture himself ruling Kolkata from the heavens, wearing a gold crown and sitting on a throne of clouds and diamonds, but still we love him. Apart, that is, from those of us who hate him.

Over the weekend these anti-Gangulyites puffed themselves up in mock outrage at Sourav’s little cri de coeur before the Indian press. How dare he criticise his own players? What catastrophic effects might this public castigation have on the poor dears? Please Sourav, keep it in the dressing room! Have mercy! Think of vulnerable little Brendon and delicate Chris! Think of the children! This is no way to run a railroad (and so on and so forth).

Well, Anderson to them. What do you or I care for the morale in the Kolkata dressing room? I’m not on their staff, I’m not their mother, and frankly, I couldn’t give two hoots about whether Sourav is being “professional” or not. Was Kolkata’s performance against Bangalore pathetic? Maybe not. He could just as easily have tried “dreadful”, “feeble” or “inept”. But how joyful to hear an insider breaking ranks, throwing off the omerta of the professional cricketer and admitting his colleagues had acquitted themselves in a manner some distance removed from adequate.

Ganguly is a delightful mix of Little Lord Fauntleroy and Machiavelli. If he was English, he would be a Yorkshireman. From the posh end of Yorkshire, no doubt, but unmistakably a cantankerous inhabitant of the north, prone to high-handed rudeness and plotting in corridors. But just as the Indian selectors kept coming back to him, we can’t be without him either. He is part of the furniture of Indian cricket, an awkwardly constructed and slightly rickety side table with angular edges on which people regularly bruise themselves. The place would feel a little empty without him.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England