Call it “rest” or what you will, the non-appearance of the names of Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar has caused more than a bit of a ruckus. The selectors insist it is a break before a busy schedule, but TV channels have gone on about the passing of an era and newspapers and websites have referred to a not-so-subtle message passed to the duo, specifically Ganguly: “Your time has come.”
One of the reasons being given for Ganguly’s forced rest is the unhappiness within a section of the Board which sentiment has been passed on to the media by unnamed “sources” at the way he played in the World Cup.
These reports, part of a whisper campaign over the past month to oust Ganguly, have referred to his taking 129 balls to make 66 against Bangladesh, and implied that he took the time for purely selfish reasons. There is unattributed talk within the cricketing fraternity that these reasons are to do with some vague clause in an endorsement contract he has, that allegedly fetches him more money for more minutes spent at the crease.
Yet, not one so-called BCCI “source” has had the guts to come out and say this publicly, or display a copy of this “contract”. If someone has proof, then why not show it and put an end to all the gossip and take action against the player? If no one does, then be fair to a man who has a staggering 10,000-plus runs in one-day international cricket, at a very high average of 41.37. It is a stupendous record.
Meanwhile, what this malicious rumour mongering has done is to give Ganguly-baiters (and there are legions of them) a chance to criticise a man who has shown tremendous mental strength and courage to make a spectacular comeback to international cricket.
In the time since his return for the Tests against South Africa, where he played a critical role in breathing life into a stunned Indian team that had been whitewashed in the one-day series preceding his arrival, Ganguly has played 10 one-dayers. He has 509 runs in that period at 63.63, 146 runs more than the next man on the run charts in that period, Rahul Dravid (see graphic).
Now, Ganguly has been criticised for that Bangladesh knock. Yes, he did bat slowly but just look at the context of the game. India had lost Sehwag for 2, Uthappa for 9, Tendulkar for 7 and Dravid for 14. When Yuvraj, the second highest scorer in that game (47 off 58), walked in at No. 6, India were struggling at 72-4, with Ganguly still holding up one end. They had an 85-run stand that Yuvraj dominated.
It was a similar situation on November 26 last year in Cape Town, when Dravid scored 63 off 103 balls (and that was not a vital World Cup match). Dravid came in after India lost Sehwag (0-1) and watched as the others fell: Tendulkar (2 runs, 7-2), Kaif (10 runs, 17-3), Karthik (14 runs, 44-4). Dravid and MS Dhoni then had an 85-run partnership.
Dhoni made 55, the second highest score, at a whopping strike rate of 114.58. Was Dravid criticised for playing selfishly? No, he could not have been. He had to stand there and he did.
As did Ganguly, when he needed to. Given the controversial conditions of his exile and the mind-boggling pressure on the man to come out and perform (with so many people willing him to fail), all that he has done since December is quite remarkable.
Whatever he has done, Sourav Ganguly has been denigrated for much of his career. Sometimes that criticism was justified, but very often, it was not. He has played some really gritty, even outstanding cricket of late. Why spoil it all?