Daily Archives: 11 October 2008

Should Sourav Ganguly be censured?

Did Ganguly take aim at Dhoni or Sehwag?

In a strange and bitter interview, Sourav Ganguly has taken careful aim at a few people, including Dilip Vengsarkar, the previous chairman of the selection committee.

In an interview to a Bengali newspaper, Ganguly said he was very frustrated at being “the sacrificial goat all the time”.

While talking about his own frustrations is ok, it is when he trained his gun at his own dressing room that I think he crossed the line between mildly-acceptable and totally-unacceptable in my book! After all, it is not a crime to air your frustrations in the press.

And surely, the man has had to deal with many a frustration in his career. When he came into the national side, scuttlebutt was that he got in because of considerations other than his class, ability and form. When he was dropped without even having the opportunity to carry the drinks tray, people ridiculed him. He then had to endure more sniggers when he got selected for the tour of England in 1996 where he made his debut. His place in the team has always been under the microscope — even when he backed himself as leader to transform India from a bunch of sometimes-talented individuals to a team that could play against some of the very best. And then, through the Greg Chappell episode and, later, through his return to the Indian cricket playing fraternity, the microscope has always been trained on him.

So, his frustrations are perhaps understandable. He has had to, perhaps, endure more scrutiny than most in the Indian middle order.

Ganguly said, that the turning point was when he was dropped for the Irani trophy. “It was difficult to accept,” he said. “If a gun is held at your head, how far can you bear it. That too after playing 450 matches. I played badly in only one series. But others are not dropped. I have scored the highest number of runs after comeback,” he said.

All of that is not really a crime, even if it contained factual inaccuracies. After all, he is only expressing his opinions openly. Perhaps he wasn’t the most diplomatic. But acceptable? Most certainly, in my book.

He then went on to say that although he could have perhaps played on until 2009, he was not “prepared to take any more humiliation,”. Again, he was only expressing his own bitterness and frustrations. He was perhaps entitled to both!

He then made the two most personal and telling comments that, in my view, ought to earn him a strong censure and perhaps even a suspension from the BCCI.

The first statement was against a former player and the next, against a current player.

First he said, “Everything happens in Indian cricket. When Greg Chappell dropped me, he chose Tejinder Pal Singh to replace me. Where is he now?”

And then came the real bombshell: “Some have not scored any runs in the last three series, some have not scored any run during the last one year. Some have changed their hair style more number of times than the number of runs they have scored. I was dropped despite scoring the highest number of runs following my comeback.”

Now that is a total no-no in my books. While it is perfectly ok for a current contracted player to express his own frustrations and opinions on his own abilities, it just cannot be right to take aim at an ex player in the dressing room or indeed, a current player in the dressing room.

Apart from Dhoni and Sehwag, there aren’t too many Indian players who have changed their hair-styles in the last year. It is most likely that Ganguly trained his sights on Dhoni when he issued this latest unprovoked and totally irresponsible verbal volley! After all, it was Dhoni that insisted on younger-fitter players in the ODI team — an insistence that led to Sourav Ganguly being axed from the ODI side. So, was this Ganguly’s way of getting even with Dhoni? If it wasn’t Dhoni, who was it that he aimed that barb at?

Surely, such speculation cannot be good for dressing room harmony.

The senior players in the side — sans Ganguly — ought to get together with the BCCI and issue Ganguly with a serious warning and perhaps even drop him for the next Test. It is important that team members do not take pot-shots at other team members through the press.

Shane Warne, a player who got away with near-murder several times in his career, was able to find a friendly cameraman to attribute the “Can’t bowl, can’t throw” own-team-player sledge against Scott Muller. Ganguly should not be that lucky. He should be made an example of by his own team members. If not, what would stop a Rohit Sharma or a Suresh Raina questioning the ability of a Rahul Dravid via an irresponsible press interview?

As I write this piece, there is news filtering in that Ganguly has denied making these comments. But if he has made these comments, he should be made to sit out the next game!

Ganguly has been an exceptional cricketer. But in this case — and by washing dressing-room dirty linen in public in Zimbabwe — he has stepped over the lines of decency and responsible behaviour. He should suffer for it.

— Mohan

This is “new age cricket”?

I thought that totally naff phrases and silly tags were mothballed in cricket after the departure of John Buchanan. But no, Australia has continued its recent proud tradition of producing naff tags — and this latest pearl may be from the Guru Greg Chappell stable — to come up with “new age cricket“. They were going to try out new-age-cricket (NAC) in the ongoing series against India!

It basically involves hassling the opposition continually for runs — presumably because the opposition is old or unfit or lazy or all of the above! NAC also means setting innovative fields so that the opposition’s run rate dries up — presumably because the opposition is too old, fat, lazy and unfit to run singles and depend on 4s to keep the scoreboard ticking!

So this is what NAC is.

Firstly, what’s wrong with just plain cricket?

Second, this NAC stuff does not appear to be working! Early signs are that it has bombed in the face of Ricky Ponting!

After the Australian 1st innings (a report on the 2nd day has been compiled by Mahesh) an admittedly early review of NAC indicates to me that naffness is not restricted to the term — the theory is as naff as the term!

Australia wanted to hustle the old-fat-lazy Indian fielders when batting and restrict the scoring rate of the opposition when fielding. Results show that Australia scored at 2.81 runs per over and are giving away runs at about 4 an over right now. Yes, it is early days, but will someone tell the Australian team that it is time to mothball this NAC stuff?

As an admirer of Australian cricket, it was painful for me to see Australia crawl at 2.8rpo through the innings. This is not the Australia I know. And if this is what new-age hustling of old-fat-lazy fielders results in, give me the old-age stuff any day! Another facet of their cricket that I did not like much was the way Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey played. They were just too cautious. They gave the conditions and the opposition bowlers way too much respect. If an Indian batsman had played the way Ricky Ponting, most newspaper analysts (ok, I use that term very lightly), bloggers and TV anchors would have termed it a “selfish” approach that put self ahead of the team! Homer alludes to this in his blog post. Ponting made 123 runs off 331 balls and Hussey made 146 off 402 balls at batting rates that would have made Anshuman Gaekwad and Chetan Chauhan proud! This wasn’t Australia, was it? Or was it the NAC Australia?

Moreover, Australia should continue to play the way Australia plays best. To get on top of the bowling. To keep the scoreboard ticking. To keep the foot on the pedal and to not let the opposition back into the game. That’s the way Australia has won over the last 10 years or so. And that’s the only way this team will continue to produce results as impressively as it has. These theories are good for the paper they are written on. They give people like Buchanan and Chappell something to do when they are in the dressing room and when sleep threatens to overtake them on a hot summer day! However, cricket is played by able bodied men who do things the way they have been doing.

For some time now, we have been critics of India trying to play the “Australian Way” — in your face, aggressive, high-adrenaline cricket, when it doesn’t quite come naturally to them! Similarly, it is time to question this new approach that Australia seems to have adopted — a very Indian way of playing grinding cricket on dust bowls. A style of game that comes quite naturally to the Akash Chopras and Rahul Dravid’s of the world. In my view, this over-cautious approach of eking out runs and looking for singles all the time in a bid to wear out the opposition is very un-Austrlian-like.

Moreover, it is this very facet that kept India in the game right through the Australian 1st innings! If I were an Indian bowler/fielder and if I had been on the pitch for 5 sessions (approx 150 overs) against Australia and if I had looked at the scoreboard to see the score read only 400 for 6, why would I not launch into a wild dance? Why would I allow my shoulders to droop? Why would I allow my spirits to flag? In previous Tests gone by, after 5 sessions against Australia, the scoreboard may well have read 615 for 6!

When batting, Australia kept India in the game through over-cautious NAC and while fielding these supposedly innovative field-settings are leaking runs at nearly 4rpo — admittedly things may be different if/when Sehwag departs. And admittedly this is all early days yet. But in my view, if it ain’t broken there’s no need to fix it!

— Mohan

India Vs Australia :: 1st Test :: Bangalore :: Day-2

At the end of day 1, the SBS score card read 2-1, mainly because of the wicket that fell in the last over of the day. From the Australian point of view they still had 6 wickets in hand and they had already scored 254 runs. Plus, Mr. Cricket was still at the crease.

From India’s point of view, a couple of early wickets in the morning could put them in front. Watson, Haddin and White – the next three batsmen had good first class batting averages, but were untested at this level. The first session was going to be crucial for both teams.

Pre-lunch session:

Shane Watson started the day positively with a single of the very first ball. Here is an all rounder who just hasn’t lived up to his potential and this was his big chance to prove that he belonged at the highest level. Sadly he lasted just 14 balls. He survived a close LBW call of the first ball of Ishant’s second over and was bowled out a couple of balls later. Australia had just added another 5 runs to their over night total and India appeared to be very much in the game.

This brought Haddin in to the crease. He started out tentatively and Ishant seemed to trouble him a bit, but he hung in there and by lunch time stitched up a fine 74 run partnership with Hussey. They went in with the score on 333/5. In spite of the early set back, the session belonged to Austalia, and the SBS score card at that stage was 3-1 in favour of Australia.

Post-lunch session:

Hussey was not out on 92 when play stopped for lunch. The spinners were not that effective -  Harbhajan didn’t trouble the batsmen a great deal and Kumble had already conceded 100 runs without taking a wicket. Ishant Sharma opened the bowling right after lunch and had an impact straight away. He almost had Hussey as a thick inside edge missed the stumps and went to the boundary to give Hussey his hundred.

Ishant’s spell was  outstanding. In his 2nd oveBut more r  after lunch, he gave India the break through they were looking for – he had Haddin caught at short cover of a slower ball and 2 overs later, White followed suit in a similar fashion. All three wickets in the day at that stage had fallen to Ishant Sharma who should be complimented for getting something out of a otherwise flat wicket that offered no assistance to the bowlers.

The partnership between Hussey and Haddin yielded 91 runs and the score at the fall of Haddin’s wicket was a round 350 runs. When White was out, the score was 362 for 7.  India was hoping to quickly wrap up the tail and should consider itself unlucky that Lee wasn’t given out LBW to the second ball he faced off Harbhajan Singh. (The BDS should read 6-2 in favour of Australia at this stage). At Tea, Australia had moved to 416 – they had added 83 runs in that session losing 2 wickets, and the SBS scorecard was still in favour of the Aussies at 3.5 to 1.5.  But more importantly, Australia were looking at a 450+ score at that stage

Post-tea session:

I am not sure what Zaheer had during the Tea break, but whatever it was did the trick for India. In the two overs he bowled after Tea, he had Lee, Johnson and Hussey all clean bowled. The Aussies finished up with a score of 430. 9 of the 10 wickets had been taken by the fast bowlers and only one went to the spinners (and even that was a debatable decision). Kumble went wicketless even after conceding over a hundred runs and Harbhajan was just ordinary. The fielding was also very ordinary through out the day and  the Indian fans were really hoping for a good batting performance from the Indians.

Sehwag and Gambhir did not disappoint – they were aggressive and yet careful (except for the running between the wickets – which seemed very risky on a couple of occasions). In the 18 overs they played before rain interrupted the game, India had reached 68 without losing any wickets – which was pretty good going. Sehwag finished the day on 43 and Gambhir is on 20.

Sehwag in particular looked very confident and he may well hold the key to how well India respond to the Australian total tomorrow. The post-tea session belonged to India and the SBS score card should read 3.5-2.5 still in favour of Australia. There was one close shout for LBW, which hawkeye seemed to indicate would have clipped leg stump – Most umpires in the world wouldn’t have given that out, but let us modify the BDS scorecard as Australia 6 – India 3.

Notable mentions:

  • Hussey’s innings was just sensational. Without Hussey holding the middle order and the tail together, the Aussies would have been all out for a far lesser score. He is not known as Mr. Cricket for nothing..
  • Zaheer took a five-for, something that doesn’t happen often enough on Indian grounds. So, well done, Zaheer.

The first session is going to be very crucial for India. They may be 68 for no loss, but they are still well short of the Australian total. All we need is another big hundred from Sehwag tomorrow…and some good support from the other batsmen 🙂