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Sight Screen

Monday, December 26, 2005

Furthering the debate

Last Friday, I linked to Ashok Mitra's oped piece in the Telegraph, and mentioned that it set out lucidly one side of the debate.
I find to my surprise a few mails asking me how come I was endorsing that article, and didn't I see the flaws? The thing is, I am not 'endorsing' every article I link to; I don't need this blog to be only about those stories I agree with.
What sets Mitra's article apart from a lot of others is that it goes beyond screaming abuse and tries to frame the issues; as I mentioned in my post, that is what debates are about -- one side setting out a case as he or she sees it, others disputing the contentions.
And in that vein, comes this letter from Dipanjan Chattopadhyay (it is not the only letter to have come in on the subject, but it is perhaps the one that addresses Mitra's piece in the round) quoted in full below:
Coming from Ashok Mitra, this is disappointing, but not surprising. The outburst that was "perhaps something more than Bengali narrow-mindedness" in the beginning of the article becomes decidedly "anti-colonial" at the end of the article.
Of course, Ashokbabu, a veteran leftist intellectual, can read the mind of all Eden Gardens spectators and never projects his own anti-colonialism hangover onto "mass"es. How does he know that the crowd he is talking about would not have reacted in exactly the same way if an Indian was the coach of the team instead of GC? Also how does he know that the crowd would have reacted as strongly as they did if India were to score 300 runs and win the game?
Crowd response was definitely influenced by the shoddy performance and it's nothing new at Eden Gardens any more. There was no injustice done to a local hero during the World Cup semifinal and the Pakistan test. Recognizing that would perhaps have undermined his search for an anti-colonial protest against injustice and oppression.
Playing the race card and referring back to India's colonial history (and indirectly Bengal's fight against it) are unfortunate and irrelevant, but sadly typical in Bengali leftist circles. Notice his stress on "foreign coach", "rough Australian". We are just lucky he did not bring up Australia's penal origins and GC's criminal ancestors. It's probably time to move on and stop stating each and every issue, from foreign investment to cricket coaches, in terms of anti-colonial framework. Ashok Mitra seems to argue for inclusion of SG in the one-day side and "natural justice" be meted to him, whatever that means.
GC has been forthright about his belief that one-day games are young men's game and his stress would be on fielding, running between the wickets, attitude, flexibility and fitness. He found, rightly or wrongly, SG to be deficient in all. I happen to agree with GC and would rather groom Rainas and Raos than to wait expectantly for a match-winning innings from SG which may or may not come once every 10 attempts.
Ashok Mitra may not agree with him. He has two options. Either he must argue that including SG in the one-day team increases India's chances of winning more one-day games or he must admit that he would rather watch SG's cover-drives and India losing instead of India winning without SG. I don't think he argues either point, as those are not easy arguments to win. Falling back on innuendos like GC disliking SG for the latter's confrontational and argumentative nature, which is to be admired not because it is good for India's cricket but for being a symbol of Bengal's anti-colonial legacy, is weak and disingenuous.
The only cricketing argument he seems to be making is the request to grant a "genius-exception" clause that he thinks SRT enjoys. Then he goes on to find some historic lean patches in SRT's records and argues for SG to be given a similar treatment. This is a weak argument to say the least. First, SRT's fielding and running between the wickets were never liabilities for the team. In a one-day game, they are perhaps as important as averages and strike rates. Even if we disregard that, let's take a look at some batting statistics
Career average: SRT - 44 SG - 40
Career strike rate : SRT- 85 SG - 73
Recent games:
SRT: 30 SG:20 (last 10 games)
SRT: 29 SG:20 (last 15 games)
SRT: 30 SG:27 (last 20 games)
SRT: 34 SG:25 (last 25 games)
I could not get the strike rates in the filtered view of stats guru, but I will hazard a guess that SG's strike rate in recent games is worse than his career strike rate of 73 which is not that great to begin with. Clearly, SRT has been well below his career average of late and at some point it will become unacceptable, but still his numbers are significantly better than SG's - not to mention SRT's much better career and recent test stats.
Finally, Ashok Mitra seems to know of a lot of different ways to handle the Ganguly situation, but it's a pity that he did not want to share them with us. We must not forget SG is not looking for a graceful exit. His goal is world cup 2007. The selectors mistimed all of their moves made worse by their stupid statements, but there are not a whole lot of graceful and elegant ways of dropping a former captain who does not fit in the new scheme of things.

And this, from Kaushik Bhattacharya:
Mr. Mitra here is saying the same thing that a lot of people desperate for Sourav to make it back to the team are. The only difference is that he is trying to make an "objective" case for it with statistics and is also trying to justify the behaviour of the Kolkata crowd along the way.
First, about the numbers, it is yet another case of putting together a completely misleading set of numbers to try to make a case. Tendulkar is the chosen target as usual. Now I agree that Tendulkar is not necessarily the biggest contributor in the one-day side any longer but the way Mr. Mitra tries to present the facts is absurd! He conveniently excludes the two best innings that Sachin played this season. If you look at a comparable set of numbers (last 10 ODIs played) then Tendulkar averages 29.67 (against SL and SA) and Ganguly averages 19.78 (against SL, WI, NZ and ZIM). If you look at the last 10 ODIs they've played together (against Pak, SL and BD) Tendulkar averages 38.70 and Ganguly averages 25.6. So who has the better record?
And its not only about these two players. I think the team management has recognized that we need to find long-term replacements for the senior batsmen and give them time to settle into their roles so that we are not faced with a West Indies like situation in a few years time. Laxman's already been shunted out of the ODI team (he averages 29.11 in his last 10 ODIs btw) and I don't think there's any argument that amongst Rahul, Sachin and Sourav, the latter brings the least to the table currently.
Its funny that several players (from other countries) who are much better cricketers than Ganguly have been dropped in recent times with not even a tenth of the level of discussion and protest. Matthew Hayden was dropped from the Aussie one-day team (even though he was averaging 31.63 in his most recent ODI series), and Damien Martyn from the Test side despite averaging 48.2 over the last 10 tests he played.
England recently made the bold decision of dropping Graham Thorpe (average of 45.74 against Aus and averaging 52.38 in his last 10 tests) in favour of a younger Kevin Pietersen for as important a series as the Ashes. Yuvraj is as good if not better than Pietersen so why all the fuss?
Look a little further back and Steve Waugh's removal from the ODI captaincy and team. He had led Australia to victory over Eng and Pak in the Natwest series and his team failed to reach the VB series finals only due to some clever manipulation of the rules by South Africa. At the time he was dropped he was averaging 48.38 in his last 14 games and had led his team to victory in 9 of them.
The saddest part of it all is that this kind of partisan behaviour on the part of the media only fuels emotions and does not present a clear picture. Expressing your opinion is fine and so is making a case for someone but if the media does not deal with these things honestly and dispassionately, how can members of the public be expected to?

Your turn -- anyone care to weigh in with perspectives?

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