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Crown of thorns

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Though Sourav Ganguly would like you to believe that pressure is a thing to cope with, the truth probably lies elsewhere.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2003 02:18 IST

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Though Sourav Ganguly would like you to believe that pressure at the international level is an everyday occurrence and after a point, a player just copes with it as if it does not exist, the truth probably lies elsewhere.

Even during the best of times, being captain of the Indian team is not the easiest of jobs. Nay, some would say that even the Indian Prime Minister is not under as much scrutiny as the man at the helm of the cricket team!

Imagine leading the side in the World Cup at a time when your own form is at a low and the team is performing miserably. Ganguly is the most vilified captain India has ever had, though his predecessors, especially Mohammed Azharuddin would not agree. As would, Sachin Tendulkar and most captains who preceded them. In a world where only winners are accepted, failure is a word that everyone dreads.

Who would like to be remembered as a footnote in India's cricketing history? And what better stage to perform and lead your team to the ultimate triumph than the World Cup? If Kapil Dev is still a saleable star whom the advertising industry is willing to put at par with even a Tendulkar, it has a lot to do with India having won the 1983 World Cup under his charge.

Two thousand and three might be a different era. An era where one-day cricket is the real name of the game and even winning one match against a strong opposition is not an easy job. The whole nation is expecting India to perform a miracle. It definitely was after India won the Nat-West Trophy in England and jointly won the ICC Championship in Colombo.

At that time, the same Ganguly who could once do nothing right, was given the credit, though grudgingly, of having had some role to play in those wins. Just one match into the World Cup and the knives are out again.

They were out ever since the Indian batsmen played like dimwits against New Zealand. Yet there was hope. The damp, seaming, under-prepared wickets were sought as excuses for that poor performance. 'Let the World Cup begin and we will see the real Indian team.'

It has, and, unfortunately, the team still seems to be suffering from a New Zealand hangover. It must be, otherwise how can anyone explain their lackadaisical batting show against Holland.

The team is under the scanner and so is Ganguly. The man who scored 8,000 one-day runs faster than any other batsmen in the history of this business, has got to be under intense pressure, whatever he says.

He may not show it and his general demeanor, even after the team's and his own embarrassing batting show at Boland Park on Wednesday, did not reflect a man under siege. He faced questions from the press calmly, castigated the team but did not sound panicky or unduly worried.

He would like us to believe that this team should not be written off easily and that too, after just one match. He may have a point there. Over the past year, the same team has showed that it is capable of putting up outstanding performances and it is on the strength of their brilliant showing that we all thought India would do well in southern Africa.

It is not going to be easy now. He is struggling to put bat to ball, people are questioning the wisdom behind demoting Virender Sehwag. He is damned if he opens and is damned if he comes lower down.

The only way he can silence his detractors is by letting the bat, rather than his mouth, do the talking. Contrary to general perception, the man is well liked by his teammates and is not seen as someone who plays games. He is idolised by the younger players in the squad and the seniors respect him for his forthrightness.

But the bottomline is that unless he fires quickly in this tournament and lifts the morale of the team by personal example, Ganguly will be forced to realise that it is better to be a commoner than to wear a crown full of thorns.

First Published: Feb 14, 2003 02:18 IST