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Some men have all the luck

There are two Gangulys, one that ruled and another that merely survived, writes Arun Sivasankaran.

india Updated: Oct 01, 2005 16:09 IST

After the unholy battle moved to the BCCI board room, there was no way Ganguly was going to come out second best. It may not be the best of things to say, but these days, that is one of the few places where the Indian captain can hold his own. When it comes to cricket fields, the strut is long gone, and of late, it has become hard work to walk on it, head held high.

So, Ganguly stays, and no one expected it to be any different. What it means, essentially, is that he gets another shot at rejuvenating a career that has, for more than a season and a half, looked to be well into its 'goodbye, all of you' lap. Now, with the spat and the BCCI intervention, he gets another 12 ODIs. If Dalmiya outsmarts Pawar again and India manages to win - it will admittedly be a tall task against sides like Sri Lanka and South Africa - he keeps the job. The runs, or the lack of it, won't matter.

Some men have all the luck.

What would Greg Chappell be thinking now? Enthused by the thought of coaching a team flush with talent, he arrives in India, all charged up, and feeling confident the rest of the group will feel the same way. A few months into the job, he is saddled with a captain he has lost faith in, more than a couple of players who prefer whining to winning, and a Board that wants him to do things the way it is used to. "We want your name, sir, and we do want to be seen as taking an effort, but sorry, such hard work, such intensity, is not for us." One is not sure if he has been told that in as many words, but he surely, Greg would have got the message.

This is not to hold a brief for the Australian, and he did err in telling a few of his friends in the media what he thought of some people in the team, but no one would accuse the man of holding any personal prejudice against the captain. If it had the health of Indian cricket in mind, the BCCI would have gone into the points raised by Greg in his mail rather than declare a truce that would be lucky to last a full month. Predictably, it took the easy way out.

The Board president is happy to tell the world that the allegations of the captain faking injury are "far from true." What about Greg's comments on the captain not being willing to follow the fitness regimen prescribed, that Sourav is indulging in a divide and rule policy to retain his captaincy? Mr Mahendra, are we to believe that Greg wrote the mail only to spite Sourav, that the dressing room atmosphere couldn't be better? That Laxman spoke of negative vibes within the team only to give the media some tasty stuff to munch on?

Some prefer not to see it, but here is the picture. The captain has his backers in the team, and there are at least a few handpicked men who would be lost if they were led by any other man, but Indian cricket, at the moment, needs Greg, the coach, more than Sourav the captain. Harbhajan talks of Sourav's excellent record as captain, but what he, as well as the captain himself, does not realise is that there are two Gangulys, one that ruled till the end of the series against Pakistan in Pakistan, another that has merely survived since then.

In the Zimbabwe tri series, the Indian captain looked fallible every single delivery he faced off Shane Bond. You don't say that of many top order batsmen, do you? In such a situation, if Greg feels that there is no more that Sourav can do to help the team move forward, how does one blame him? Yes, having the whole world know what his coach thinks about him was hard on Sourav, but then, that was only due to some 'brilliant' thinking from those who wanted to bail the captain out.

Ganguly, has spoken about being vindicated after the BCCI review panel meeting and Kolkata might still be celebrating its favourite son's 'success', but the road ahead only gets tougher for the captain from now on. Apart from having to work in what has essentially become an unworkable relationship with the coach, he will have to soak in pressure, both from within and from a country watching keenly, and make runs, consistently, so that he leads the team out not because he has been chosen but because he has the right to. At the moment, the voice, in team meetings, must surely be lacking a bit of authority.

Greg's remarks on Wright's final days as coach were unwarranted and there could be truth in reports that he has been pushing the players a bit too much, a bit too early, but India would be foolish not to embrace the passion which he has brought to the job. India has gone as far as it can riding on talent and big names. Mollycoddling of stars has to end somewhere. There will be some players who won't be able to take the heat, but it is not as if the cupboard is bare.

Greg will now think twice before sending e-mails, but the man is in a tearing hurry, already dreaming dreams of coaching his team to World Cup success in 2007, and it is unlikely that the recent hiccup will make him change his ways much. Indian cricket, in many ways like the country itself, moves at its own pace, surrounded by commotion and chaos, and more than a dash of intrigue. The Aussie won't bend and it is hard to see a meeting point, unless, of course, the men who matter in Indian cricket decide to buy his vision. That will mean a big change in attitude, a few strong decisions taken, a few stars being eased into where they deserve to be now - history books.

You can hope, but don't bet on that happening.

First Published: Oct 01, 2005 12:05 IST