Sunny days ahead for Sourav
Atul Sondhi draws parallel between Gavaskar and Ganguly, and expects Maharaja to come good in WC '07.india Updated:
First let us go through the similarities between the two cricketing greats -- Sunil Gavaskar and Sourav Ganguly.
Sunil Gavaskar has pointed out that both are SG, former captains and Cancerians!
Probably Shakespeare was wrong and it is all in the name! Or, may be, masked was the respect and awe that the former captain has generated with his tremendous comeback -- a comeback laced with both dignity and resolve, which has enamoured the whole nation.
But the nation with insatiable cricketing aspirations will want few more similarities by the time the World Cup ends.
Third time lucky
Gavaskar was third time lucky. After the disappointment of the 1975 World Cup when the little master managed just 36 unbeaten runs against England at one run per five balls, he had another forgettable outing in the 1979 World Cup mustering only 89 runs from three matches.
Gavaskar did not shine with the bat again in 1983, his highest score being 25 in the semifinal against England, but he was India's lucky mascot. The only two matches that India lost, their group matches against Australia and the West Indies, were the ones in which Gavaskar did not figure.
However, Gavaskar's soothing presence did inspire others and the little master did his bit in the field, taking two very important catches in the final of the Prudential Cup.
India will hope that Sourav Ganguly's third World Cup too turns out to be the lucky one for India. Of course, Indians would like him to shine with the bat as well, as he has been doing since his tremendous comeback in South Africa.
Incidentally, Gavaskar was a former captain having lost his crown to Kapil Dev after a disastrous Pakistan series few months before the World Cup. But he did not allow this disappointment to come in the way of a renewed commitment. The way Ganguly has been going, he will be expected to deliver a similar fare.
Grooming the World Cup Captain
Gavaskar had groomed Kapil Dev into a deadly fast bowler, who helped him win three series in a row against West Indies, Pakistan and Australia at home from December 1978 to February 1980.
In those times, it was not easy to convince everybody that a pacer could have thrived on Indian pitches where quality spinners like Prasanna, Chandra, Bishen, and Venkat had called the shots so far. But Gavaskar's faith in Kapil Dev's talent was immense. It eventually materialized in the World Cup courtesy Dev's devils.
In a much similar fashion, at a time when Dravid's place in the ODI side was in serious doubt, Ganguly had asked him to don the glove and saved a career. Probably nobody, save Ganguly, seriously believed that Dravid could match a regular keeper.
If the current Indian skipper has scored over 10,000 runs in ODIs his former captain does deserve some of the credit.
It's time Dravid must return the favour to Ganguly and India by winning the cup, the way Kapil Dev did to Gavaskar and India.
Escape from Gallows
The point is can Ganguly's willow get the cup? It will be extremely tough to say no. First of all, Ganguly will not approach the challenge with trepidation. If you have had near death experience you do not fear one. Do you?
Had one of the youngsters succeeded and had Ganguly missed the bus to the World Cup, the former captain would have been lost to the cricketing world forever. Luckily for him and India, it did not happen and Ganguly made a grand comeback.
India will hope that in his second reincarnation, he comes out trumps. In much the same fashion as Mohinder Amarnath did after he was recalled for the Pakistan series in 1982-83 and performed brilliantly, keeping up the tempo in the West Indies, and the 1983 World Cup.
Ganguly is certainly not going to fear failure now. He can only see the road to glory.
Unless Ganguly falters badly which looks highly unlikely now, he will be seen in his favourite opening slot throughout the World Cup. The second slot will be shuffled between Robin Uthappa and Virender Sehwag.
That must give Ganguly some kind of extra-security though it is doubtful that he will need it. Ganguly knows that unless things go horribly wrong, India will persist with him till the very end.
Prolific run scorer
Sourav has been a champion batsman in the World Cups. In fact, the Kolkattan in his 18 matches from two World Cups has a staggering average of 56, which is much above his career average of 41.
While one can be critical of Ganguly in the sense that three of his four World Cup centuries have come against Kenya (two) and Namibia (one), but the point is he made Kenya and Namibia look like Kenya and Namibia!
Much in the same way as Kapil Dev's 175 in 1983 made Zimbabwe look like Zimbabwe after the minnows had threatened to do an Australia on India.
Incidentally, one of these centuries had come in the semifinal against Kenya. Isn't at times the stage is much more important than the opposition? Ganguly was not found wanting when it mattered.
However, against Australia, Ganguly will need to come up with something special. Scores of 8, 9 and 24 in three World Cup outings against them are not encouraging. But then, as Ganguly told press recently, ''Last time we missed in Johannesburg. But this time if we reach the final, we have to win the cup.''
Words full of determination from a man, eager to carry the aspirations of a whole nation to a logical conclusion.