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'Apne dada ko bhoole to nahi na'

The ad kept reminding selectors of Ganguly, and also the form of the Indian team, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Nov 30, 2006 18:34 IST

''Mera naam Sourav Ganguly hai. Bhoole to nahin naa''.

Well, the tone in the ads aired in October was soft, brittle, and almost defeatist. The Bengal Tiger looked shorn of his claws and his super soft delivery could have done credit to any ex-cricketer. Nothing like my name is Bond, James Bond.

Despite India failing to make it to the final of the triangular series in Malaysia, no body had given the ghost of a chance to the former skipper to come back.

After all, India were Champions at home and were likely to do a good job once again in the Champions Trophy. The former skipper looked consigned to be thrown to the dustbin of Indian cricketing history. One who will just be doing ''ho, ha India, aaya India'', and eking out some money. Failure in county cricket against the moving ball, with an average of less than five, was not helping the matters either.

But how things have changed since that ad was aired. India have lost five out of six matches. More importantly, it has been the manner of defeat that has brought about some important changes in the selection list. India's failure to last 50 overs in any of the matches against South Africa, on some bowler friendly pitches, predictably necessitated the need for stability, as well as sprinkling of some amount of conservatism in the thought process.

It was not Ganguly's performance which forced open the gates of the Indian team for the ex-captain. But it was the collective failure of the team to raise their performance at opportune juncture. A performance which even Parliamentarians were forced to take note of.

That's is why Laxman, who has never played in any of the World Cup matches, was rushed in for the 4th ODI. And that is why, the elegant Hyderabadi and Ganguly have once again been chosen to strengthen the Indian middle order in Tests.

One certainly can't fault Greg Chappell's strategy for the on-going series.  The Indian coach, for a change, did not tamper too much with the batting line up, and opted for Jaffer, a technically sound batsman, in two out of three matches.

Even at one down position, Kaif, Dravid and Tendulkar - said to be three of India's safest top order batsmen -- had played instead of a big hitter like Dhoni. 

In the third match, once again with India's back to the wall, Greg could have easily gone in for Irfan Pathan as pinch hitter. But he wisely did not surrender to any such thought. In his heart of heart, he knew the outcome after Tendulkar fell.

But 0-3 score line, with or without experimentation, was unacceptable. And that is something which did Greg Chappell in.

Aggression

For the present lot of selectors, aggression come through planning, and not aggressive mannerisms on the field. Dilip Vengsarkar, in his brief innings as captain, was at best a mild-mannered personality.

So, in appointing Laxman as vice captain in place of Sehwag, selectors have sent few messages. First, it is a vote of confidence in Laxman as a batsman as well as captain. They believe it was long overdue and his quiet aggression, much like Dravid's outlook, may strengthen further bonding in the eleven.

Second, they have made it clear that Sehwag can't take his place in the team for granted. Three openers for a short series - Sehwag, Jaffer and Gambhir - is a clear indication that they want consistently big scores from the dashing middle-order-bat turned opener.  Else, pave the way for others.

Will it change the situation?

India have never won a  Test series in South Africa in three attempts. But unlike in Australia in 1999-2000, they have never been whitewashed there.

The presence of some seasoned players in Ganguly and Laxman, who have played there before, is an attempt to guarantee that the performances will not further go down.

Even though Ganguly averages just about 32 in South Africa compared to his career average of 41, much less if we take Laxman's hovering around 47 in his four matches there, the Kolkattan's  experience should come handy.

Win-all Situation

The new situation is a win-all situation for all the players. Those who are back are not due to some favour from Chappell or Dravid, but because others have failed. So, it is certainly an honourable, and not a back-door entry like Ganguly's inclusion in team to Pakistan was perceived to be.

The situation should also please Dravid and Chappell considering the drubbing the Indian team has been receiving. After the new selections, the whole think tank, including the selection committee, will be held accountable if India go down 0-3 in Tests. Not just the coach and the skipper.

On present form, if we are able to save a Test, it will be a great achievement. But the new inclusions are certainly capable of doing that.

If they can't, may be no one can. Right now, Vengsarkar does not have very high opinion of the rest of India.