Sourav Ganguly is fond of citing numbers in his defence. A couple of days ago, he talked about scoring 1000 runs in his last 16 Tests. Opinions remain divided whether he is a player well past his prime or one who has unfairly been made the victim of a witch-hunt? The truth is Sourav Ganguly the batsman hasn't come to the party for the last 20 months. Since scoring that magnificent and defiant 144 against Australia at the Gabba in December 2003, Ganguly has yet to play an innings of significance in Test cricket.
A cursory look at the stats don't reveal the rot that has set in - in his last 14 Tests, starting with the second Test of that series in Australia, Ganguly's stats read 681 runs at 35.84, with one century and five fifties. Not outstanding figures, but quite acceptable, you might think. The problem is that many of those runs have been against soft opposition and bowling attacks: Ganguly has had his share of the easy runs against the minnows, but he hasn't done much of note against the tougher teams. Whittle away the flab accumulated against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, and the stats read 421 runs in 16 innings at 26.31 with only three half-centuries. Dig even deeper, and it turns out that one of those three fifties - against South Africa at Kanpur
- came after the top three had laid a splendid platform: he came in to bat with the score reading a comforting 298 for 3. The main criticism against Ganguly the batsman is that he hasn't scored much lately, but also that he's hardly ever contributed when the team has needed him to. (Click here
for Ganguly's score in his last 19 innings.)
Easy opposition, easy runs
|Zim and B'desh
(Ganguly in his last 14 Tests)
The last time Ganguly's Test average was more than 50 was when India toured Australia in 1999-2000. In 53 Tests
since then, he averages only 35.96 (56.17 against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in ten Tests, 32.23 against the rest).
To make matters worse, his form has plummeted in the one-dayers too, a format in which he was considered one of the best in the world not very long ago. His last 42 matches
have fetched him no hundreds, just seven fifties, and an average of 26.05, a huge fall from his career average of more than 40. And if the minnows are excluded from the calculations, the numbers are even dismal. Ganguly's leadership skills and the team's results meant that his place wasn't questioned, but with both those factors on the decline, Ganguly's batting form will increasingly come into focus in the near future.