This is written in response to a comment that Chandan made in an earlier thread. I started this in the “Comments” section of that post and then, when it grew too big on me, I thought I’d post it here as an article.
In his comments, Chandan says: “Secondly the decision to drop Ganguly can’t be long overdue because in March-April he had made a fighting 87 in a match where none of the other Indians batsmen clicked on a green track in Ahmadabad against SAf quicks and again made a match winning 87 in the final test on a minefield of a track where no other batsman from either side could score big. Failure in Lanka has been his first complete failure in a series.”
Sure. One can’t deny the fact that Ganguly has scored an 87 here and a 80 there in the recent past. But I said even back then that Ganguly has to step aside and let others occupy his place in the team.
My view is that one should not build for the long-term by just looking at the immediate past!
Steve Waugh made a gutsy 80 not out in his last Test. Indeed, in his last series, Waugh made 267 runs at an average of 44.50! Not bad returns! Does that necessarily mean that he should have played on for another 20 years! If he had, he may have made more runs even after his legs and eyesight had deserted him! Who knows?
Only in India do we — fans and administrators — look just at the last game or the last series before making an attempt to look at the future! Only in India do we ask petulantly, “So what ra? You think Rohit Sharma would be better than Ganguly-aaa? Prove it raaa. Look at Yuvraj. What he has done raaa.” in response to a postulation that Ganguly should make way for a future-build.
One can’t wait till a CEO has passed away to think of grooming the next CEO! We have succession plans in industry. So why are we insulating our sport from succession planning? Such succession planning should take into account future aspirations of the enterprise, the current state of resources and talent, the current capability that exists and future needs. Succession plans should also take into account current stability and continued sustainability of the fundamental proposition — an ongoing strong unit! Plans will then need to be drawn up for intercepting that aspirational future in a systematic manner!
In the position we find ourselves in, if we only looked at the last two series as the only thermometer for future-build decisions, I am sure we can mount a case for a perpetual stay-order on the axing of any of the fab-four until they lose their legs completely at age 86! After all, one could always point out that “X and Y failed ONLY in the last series but did well in the immediately previous series before that”!
Moreover, an argument around “Why bring in youngster X? Will he be better than Y?” does not hold water either. Few new CEOs of companies are immediately successful. Over time, they will develop their own character, develop their own bags of experience and chart their own path. Over time, a new fab four will emerge. Similarly in cricket!
India cannot afford a state where all four of the fab-four depart at once. Youngsters need to be phased in. Over time, a new and different Fab-Four will emerge!
Of the current Fab-Four, Ganguly looks the most dodgy. He looked lethargic and lackadaisical in Sri Lanka. His fielding is worse now than it ever was. The only saving grace in all of this is that, with Ganguly’s departure, Laxman is no longer the second-worst fielder in the team! This is not to suggest that Tendulkar, Dravid and Kumble are amazing fielders. However, it is inconceivable to me that Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag are the three best fielders in a national Test side, with Harbhajan fielding at cover-point!
Moreover — and this is no more than a hand wave — while I can see continued contributions from Tendulkar and Dravid into the future, due to their over-reliance on technique, given his predominant reliance on hand-eye coordination, I see Ganguly as the potential first-cab-off-the-rank in a drip-by-drip spill-and-fill operation. In other words, I do see the potential for Dravid and Tendulkar to clear their Mendis-induced-cobwebs and bounce back. They have the luxury of falling back on their technique. One feels — and this is no more than a hand wave — that with the loss of that dogged determination that he so used to have and with the advancing of age — as evidenced by his lethargic fielding in Sri Lanka — Ganguly has to make way for a younger, smarter player.
I have been an ardent fan of Ganguly for a long time. And I still believe that he was Indian Cricket’s first real leader of men. But it is time for him to hang up his boots and quit the Test and ODI scene gracefully.