Ganguly's absence will affect morale, says Kirmani

The morale of the Indian cricket team as it bids to win the upcoming tri-nation Indian Oil Cup in Sri Lanka would be low in the absence of Sourav Ganguly, according to Syed Kirmani, the former wicketkeeper and chief selector. Unless he's granted a dramatic reprieve by the ICC, Ganguly will sit out the tournament, serving the last four games of a six-match suspension while Rahul Dravid leads the side.

"The six-match ban on Sourav (Ganguly) by the ICC is harsh," said Kirmani. "But a rule is a rule. His absence will affect the team's morale to a certain extent. After all, he has been the most successful captain of India."

Speaking at a public function, Kirmani reckoned that Greg Chappell, the new coach, was one of the great players of the game, and someone who could inspire the team to perform well. He added that Sachin Tendulkar's absence "would not have any adverse impact", while also pointing out that "the team had a bad series against Pakistan at home but the players would like to stabilise and do well."

Kirmani rejected any suggestion that Virender Sehwag, named vice-captain for Sri Lanka, would have to shoulder a greater batting burden. "Every player is capable of scoring runs," said Kirmani. "A few players could run in to bad form or the entire team could have a bad patch. That is cricket. On the whole, we have an established batting line-up."

Asked whether India had no option but to pick a foreigner as coach, he replied in the negative. "The players and the BCCI wanted it," said, adding that John Wright, the former coach, had infused professionalism and improved the team's fielding considerably.

"Greg will provide great inspiration to the team, but the fact that the Indians had won the 1983 World Cup without any coach or a physio or a trainer will remain," said Kirmani, who was an integral part of that legendary team led by Kapil Dev.

Kirmani, a former Karnataka stalwart, also pooh-poohed the idea that captaincy would take the sheen off Dravid's batting. "Rahul has a mature mind and I am sure he will not be under any extra pressure as captain."