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The eloquent silence of Sourav Ganguly

At a press conference in Durban, a former captain turns thespian

A reserved Sourav Ganguly during a press conference, Durban, April 28, 2009
Ganguly cuts a picture of philosophical sullenness at the event © AFP

On the way to Durban's Sun Coast Cinema, the taxi driver asked me what I was doing in South Africa.

"I'm here for the cricket."

"Oh," she said. "The Bollywood league?"

"That's the one," I said.

Yesterday the Bollywood league's most Bollywood team, Kolkata Knight Riders, appropriately staged a Q&A session in a room usually reserved for cinema-goers. Members of the press and public sank into their chunky seats while 13 of Kolkata's finest trotted on stage as part of a surreal exercise presumably aimed at tightening the franchise's iron grip on the PR league. Ten of them need not have bothered.

For Brendon McCullum, John Buchanan - who, as captain and coach, or maybe just by complete coincidence, sat in the two comfy seats in the middle - and Sourav Ganguly, perched next to Ishant Sharma at one end, it was another day at the office. Chris Gayle did answer a question, it's true, belatedly breaking the tension by telling Buchanan he should have picked more West Indians. But this was very much the Brendon, John and Sourav show. And although Sourav said the least, there was no doubt he conveyed the most.

There may come a point when Kolkata aficionados stop regarding Ganguly's reported resentment over the decision to make McCullum captain as news, but that point is not about to be reached anytime soon. On this evidence it was hardly surprising, because Ganguly's body language told a tale of such theatrical misery that it was as if someone had shouted "lights, camera, action".

When Buchanan was inevitably asked if McCullum's run of low scores meant Ganguly would soon be opening the batting, Ganguly closed his eyes and breathed a weary sigh. His mood was hardly helped when Buchanan pointed out that Brad Hodge might also come into the frame but that, in any case, he couldn't "see any immediate changes".

Ganguly's answers were as terse as his folded arms. A couple of photographers, sensing the mood, got busy from a few feet away, but they were the only ones doing any snapping. Ganguly wasn't snapping out of anything. The picture of sullenness was clearly one he was happy to see in the cuttings books.

Then, the killer blow. Ganguly was asked whether he would have done anything differently had he been captain. Here was his chance to support McCullum, to show the world (or at least Room 6 of the Sun Coast Cinema) that the Kolkata Knight Riders are as happy as their owner, Shah Rukh Khan, always seems to be. Instead, Ganguly deadpanned: "I don't think I'll be able to answer that question."

McCullum handled the moment well. For the splittest of seconds, he looked as if he couldn't quite believe that his team-mate - the Prince of Kolkata, no less! - had fobbed off a golden opportunity to back him up. Then, maybe, he remembered how these things work.

McCullum, nobly, says he will stand down as Kolkata captain if the team fails to make the semi-finals. There may have been one person in Room 6 who viewed that news with a certain ambivalence.

Lawrence Booth is a cricket correspondent at the Guardian. He writes the acclaimed weekly cricket email The Spin for guardian.co.uk

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