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Sight Screen

Friday, December 16, 2005

Oh wow! Here we go...

For reasons I don't want to spell out as that would involve betraying confidences, I have been a bit wary, ever since a week or two after Zimbabwe, of stories in the media that reference anonymous 'sources'.
It's not that I discount them altogether -- merely, that I don't take it as gospel anymore. Given the caveat, this story in the Hindustan Times is still startling:
On the fourth day of the Kotla Test, the selectors had an informal meeting. They decided they would talk to Ganguly and explain that they were giving him this last opportunity and if things didn't work out, he should use it to call it quits.
"It was decided that Kiran More would speak to him in his capacity as the selection committee chairman," says a selector. "I don't know what happened, why Kiran did not speak, because he obviously didn't and this didn't make sense. In any case, what happened the next day at the selection meeting overrode everything else, because both captain and coach were definite he had no place in the team." More could not be contacted.
"Chappell was extremely aggressive, as he always is, and spoke at length against Ganguly," says another selector. "He was hell-bent on ensuring that Ganguly did not make it to the squad. He said Ganguly was dividing the dressing room; that he would not mix with the other players, he refused to speak much or share in the joking around.”
"Chappell said Ganguly had an attitude problem and was a bad fielder. He said having him in the squad would be detrimental to India."

No surprises here thus far; Chappell's views on Sourav have been pretty clear from the leaked email, and despite all the public smiles and posturing, none but the chronically naive would have bought into the rapprochment stage-managed by the BCCI honchos after the inquiry that wasn't.
Besides, this view of Sourav is hardly new; former coach John Wright had (far more discreetly, but just as clearly, as Greg Chappell, held the same views; at one point, he flew down to Kolkatta in an attempt to convince Jagmohan Dalmiya that Sourav was past his use-by date as captain, only for Dalmiya to quash the notion.
Here is the bit that makes you sit up and take notice:
Sources said what was crucial was that Rahul Dravid was very clear about two things. One, Ganguly had no place in his eventual scheme of things as far as the playing XI was concerned and second, if he was there, he could not have him sitting in the dressing room.
"This was important. We knew that even if we picked Sourav, Chappell was capable of not playing him and Dravid was clearly uncomfortable with having his former captain in the dressing room. From his point of view, understandable. It would be very awkward all around for instance, if Ganguly had to carry drinks."

Dravid has been the quintessential team man; the ideal deputy who, despite having ambitions of his own, has been prepared to sublimate them and follow the designated leader.
More importantly, he has for much of his career been good friends with Sourav. The two had a falling out in Nagpur on the morning of the Test against Australia -- that is common, if un-articulated, knowledge. However, then coach John Wright had on that occasion moved quickly to patch things up between the captain and his deputy. And since then, Rahul has given 100 per cent to the team and its captain, as far as is visible with the naked eye.
If this story is true, and if Rahul has in fact set his face against Sourav, it raises some important queries (enunciating them could be a waste of time, actually -- who is going to answer them?).
1. While it is natural for Rahul, as captain, to have his own vision for the team, it is unnatural for him to deny his erstwhile mate a fitting send off at the very least; given that, it seems unlikely Rahul would have demanded Sourav's immediate ouster. The question is, what exactly did the captain tell the selectors, that tipped the scales?
2. In Sourav's famous response to Greg Chappell's allegations, he had repeatedly cited Rahul as being able to witness his contentions. There's been a buzz, for some time now, that Rahul was unhappy over it; that he felt Sourav should not have put him on a spot that way; that he felt he was unable to back up at least some of Sourav's contentions. Is this where the equation changed? Specifically, what caused the rupture between the two?
3. Who is leaking this stuff, and how reliable is the information -- or put differently, what particular game is the leaker playing? The question sort of begs itself, because of this last bit:
In case you're wondering why Zaheer Khan is still out after a stupendous run in domestic cricket, well, the coach apparently doesn't want him either. "But we'll see," says a selector.
"We figured in Ahmedabad, we didn't need another paceman. For Pakistan, we're definitely going to think about Zaheer."

That bit doesn't really plug into the available narrative. If you recall, the selection committee through its chairman clearly said that the selection exercise had finally boiled down to one slot, and two names -- seamer Zaheer Khan, or Sourav Ganguly. Three of the selectors -- or so ran the story, and even Yashpal Sharma, so vocal about so many things, hasn't yet contradicted it -- decided that Sourav would come into the team in the dubious guise of 'all-rounder', even if it was at the expense of Zaheer.
In passing, does it strike you that over the past two, three months, cricket has taken second place to skulduggery, of various kinds, from various quarters?

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