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Sight Screen

Thursday, December 29, 2005

DG post on Saurav Ganguly

Reader tffy pointed to this article, by Abhinav Goyal on his blog, about SG. Thought provoking, and worth a read.

On why Sourav Ganguly's exclusion is not a trivial matter
Abhinav Goyal

There are those who contend that the entire debate over Sourav Ganguly is a waste of time. I disagree. The debate over Ganguly's fate is a critical question of the current times even though it appears to be a trivial matter on the face of it.

Cricket, the oft-repeated cliché goes, is a religion in India. In the face of poor infrastructure, bad roads, unhygienic water supplies, electricity blackouts, public transport vehicles that hardly ever run on time and ever so often crash, corruption in anything remotely connected to the government machinery- legislative, executive and judiciary, a nonchalant fourth estate that pays more attention to Karishma Kapoor's wedding and her legal battle with her spouse than it does to actual matters to public interest and the growing economic divide in society, Indians find their hope and their despair in the performances of the Indian cricket team. So it is that cricketers, especially those who give the Indian public something to rejoice about, are Gods in India.

And Ganguly is way up there in the pantheon. India's most successful test captain ever. The Prince of Calcutta who was once described by Rahul Dravid as being second to none but God while playing on the off-side, Sourav won over Indian hearts the world over by hitting a century on his Test debut at Lords. Since then, he has given us many, many moments to cherish and relive but the defining moment of Sourav's career came six years after his debut at, coincidentally, the same venue- the home of cricket- Lords.

The image of Sourav taking off his shirt and waving it above his head when India beat England in the finals of the Natwest Trophy became the symbol of not just Indian cricket but of a brave, new and resurgent India in the 21st century. Sourav epitomized a new generation of India, one that was unapologetic for its colonial history and was not afraid to fight to the face the world outside. Bold. Bare-chested. Under Sourav, the Indian cricket team, once a team of chokers and under-achievers, transformed into a team of fighters that on several occasions snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. He was the Indian captain who would take the fight to the opponent on their turf. In a mirror action to the rapid strides India was making on the global stage in the IT and ITES industry segments, Sourav and his boys inspired us all to dream big. A dream they delivered upon time and again, reaching the acme during the tour of Pakistan in 2004. My father may not be a great fan of cricket but one could see the pride (and joy) in his face when India beat Pakistan in Pakistan. Joy felt and shared by every Indian.

After the series in Pakistan, it was time to consolidate upon the platform created and to take Indian cricket to the next level. A level where performances were the only criteria for selection and prima donnas were disallowed for the one thing Team India lacked was consistency. If not, the momentum built up by the team would be lost and a whole lot of hard work would go down the drain. The problem was this- Ganguly the batsman had long vanished in a heap of paltry performances. In order to set a high benchmark, he would have to walk down that path himself and that was not visible anymore. A year later, it was clear that Ganguly was just not the right person for the job. He knew it. He also knew he could get away with it as long as Indian cricket was run by his godfather, Jagmohan Dalmiya and he used it to his advantage. By doing so, Ganguly transformed into a symbol of past glory. A has-been. A mascot for people who are unable to keep pace with the world and who blindfold themselves so that they dont have to face changing times, assuming that their past deeds would be sufficient to carry them through.

Ganguly was a God in India. A God that failed.

There is no denying Ganguly's legacy and his contribution to Indian cricket. There are many moments of joy that Sourav Ganguly has provided us for which we should be, and are, grateful. Do those moments, and the man who made those moments possible, merit a place in the Indian cricket team?

What makes the question of Ganguly's inclusion in the team such an important question is that it asks the bigger question that India has now, inadvertently, been called to answer. It is a choice between past glory and continuous improvement. Between emotion and merit. And India has to answer. If it chooses emotion and past glory and asks for the reinstatement of Ganguly to the team based on the past, India can go back to its unquestioning, uncomplaining life accepting all its problems and cricket as its escape from those problems.

If, instead, it chooses to take a step forward to a system where merit and performance are not optional, it will have to answer even bigger questions. Why doesn't the same apply to every sphere of our life? Why do we accept corrupt politicians and a highly dysfunctional government machinery? When India dismisses the Bengali sentiment running high in Ganguly's favour as blind emotion, it will need to answer why it votes on the basis of language, caste, creed and religion. When it demands to know the credentials of the five selectors who choose the Indian cricket team, why doesn't India ask for the qualifications and the bonafides of its elected representatives who make decisions on its behalf- decisions that affect its daily life.

And this is why the media (for whatever reasons- TRPs, pressure from Ganguly's sponsors whose crores of Rupees are now effectively down the drain, etc) must continue to ask the question each and every day till India knows, for sure, the choice it wants to make. A choice we all have to make for India. Of a secure, known past or an exciting, potentially promising future. India, Deal Ya No Deal?


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