Whatever happened to Team India?

The season of discontent

People who have followed Sourav Ganguly's moves over the years will know that he is not one who says things without knowing their ramifications

Anand Vasu

September 16, 2005

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Was Ganguly right in going public with his grievances? Let us know what you think.

It's not just on the field that Ganguly has got his timing awry © Getty Images
"I can tell you that before this match I was asked to step down as captain. So it was an extra determination that I found," said India's captain, in the middle of a Test match. He put a century on the board - a painstaking and joyless one - against the worst bowling attack in the world, in perfect batting conditions, and chose to make a statement that will rock the very foundations on which spirit and togetherness are built in a team of sportsmen.

People who have followed Sourav Ganguly's moves over the years will know that he is not one who says things without knowing their ramifications. He knows exactly who his constituency is, and how and when to play to the gallery. And that is a quality a leader of men can do with. But he also has powerful backers both in the Indian board and in the media - and knows how to use them. Even by his standards, though, this latest outburst is startling.

There have been murmurs and whispers about cliques in the Indian team, about clashes of personality that have threatened to overshadow the team's main objectives. Many people have brushed these away, pretending they are things the media invents, or spins. Each time Ganguly says, "I have no problem playing under anyone," the media is taken to task for propagating salacious rumours about the team.

In that sense, Ganguly has overplayed his cards here. It is widely believed, accurately or otherwise, that his comments were targeted at Greg Chappell, the coach. If this is true, then Indian cricket has reached an unworkable situation. The captain and coach need to work closely together, buy into a united vision for the long-term well-being of the team, and pull together. Situations like this rarely improve. When you want to work something out, you talk to the person you have a problem with; when you talk to the rest of the world, you're drawing battle lines.

And if indeed this is Ganguly's way of saying, "I know people want me out, but I won't take a backward step", it can only end with him, or Chappell, being taken out of the equation. And things have reached such a stage that the only way forward is for the two to part ways. Some marriages just don't work, some lose their lustre over the years; this is one that is over before the honeymoon period and it¹s now official. No matter how much the cast in this Kafka-esque play deny it, Team India, is now merely a convenient way for unimaginative cola companies to brand "the boys." There's too much manoeuvring, too much manipulation, too much insecurity in this team.

In recent days, cricketers who normally let bags of wickets or wristy hundreds do the talking, have come out with strong statements that could disrupt the harmony. That was a sure sign that all is not well within the camp. But now, we have gone beyond looking for signs. Repeated attempts to contact Ganguly in Zimbabwe for a clarification failed, but one can only go by what is out there, in the absence of anything to the contrary.

What's most worrying is the timing of Ganguly's statements. If indeed he was asked to step down - by a person or persons he refuses to name - before the start of the game, why did he wait till the third day to go public? Does he actually believe that 101 off 262 balls, against the likes of Keith Dabengwa and Gavin Ewing, holing out to mid-off the very next ball after reaching three figures, gives him the moral high ground to take on his critics? Prince of Calcutta, we've come to expect more of you. Don't sell yourself so short. And if you must, don't drag the team down with you.

Ganguly "was asked to step down as captain"

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