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Ganguly Deserves A Final Fling For India

By Orin Davidson
Life for Sourav Gangly must be downright intolerable these days.

Not because he finds himself unwanted by the Indian selectors for almost a year now, but because he will most likely miss out on the most exciting period of world limited overs cricket in ages, set to bowl off soon.

In less than six months the ninth World Cup will be staged, but preceding it, India will host the Champions Trophy series and prior to that, the country will be involved in the first ever Triangular competition involving world champions Australia and the West Indies.

And during it all, Ganguly’s nemesis Greg Chappell will continue to be a torn in his side. The former Australia captain does not think he is an asset to team spirit and has been the primary cause the former captain had been relegated to the sidelines.

But the attacking left handed batsman is not giving up, he is fighting his omission to the bitter end.

And he cannot be faulted for putting his neck and shoulders on the line in the upcoming weeks and months.

Having grown accustomed to the power, influence and prestige the captaincy of India provides, Ganguly believes he has better qualities than those players confined to the discard heap after leading India during one of its most successful spells in both forms of the game.

Because age is not on his side, the former captain knows the next few months provide the best opportunities available for him to enjoy a final fling in the India colors. He will not have another chance to play Australia and West Indies in a three-team clash, then immediately follow up with the second biggest and then play in the king of all competitions – the World Cup, almost back to back.

As a result the one time “Prince Calcutta has stretched the boundaries of decency in an all out bid to convince the powers that be, or anyone with enough influence he is still good enough to make, if nothing else, the nation’s one-day team.

Ganguly has written a book, where he back=stabbed , the man who stuck his neck out longer than any ostrich for him in the good days. Jagmohan Dalmiya nevertheless won the election West Bengal state elections and defeated the man Ganguly was mouthing him off for the top job, and the influence that goes with it in the corridors of power within the Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI).

Regardless of the ups or downs, anyone who captains India demands heavy influence and whenever Ganguly is ready to take his campaign to another level, he always has a willing audience in the India media.

Of late his pleadings have become more strident in the run-up to the Tri Nation series where the non- India teams will receive a minimum of US$ 2 million or a maximum of US$3M in appearance fees.

Outside of the monetary windfall, the prestige of competing in the series is compelling to any Indian player, much less the once privileged Ganguly.

Every team wants to be the first to inflict major damage to Australia’s dominance on
top of the world and India must fancy their chances, closer to their home in the sub continent.

Australia has never done well there and all of the millions of cricket-mad Indians are aware of that fact. In the sub-continent they failed when on top of the world in the 1996 World Cup and both times the Champions Trophy was held there.

And if one wants to be cynical, it could be pointed out it took them a 36-year stretch to regain their winning ways in Tests there.

Although West Indies has fallen badly off the radar, accomplishment-wise during Australia’s dominance, after their era of superiority, they are still held with high regard in India and the rest of Asia.

Perhaps, certain memories die hard and those like the extraordinary exploits of Weeks, Sobers, Hall and Griffith, Kanhai, Richards, Lloyd and Lara in India are likely still deeply embedded in the majority of the fans.

Most of those greats seemed irreplaceable during West Indies’ period of decline, but as of late the team seems to getting a grip of itself in one-day competition at least.
When they humiliated India 4-1 in the just concluded Digicel series, the visitors were left in a state of shock.

It went down as a huge upset as India had jumped the world rankings to number two after convincing beatings of England and Sri Lanka.

Yet it was nothing short of an embarrassment as India was made to look like schoolboys after each succeeding defeat, after winning the first game.

From the home team’s perspective, the performances were golden in more ways than one because the great Brian Lara’s contributions were minimal by his lofty standards.
When it was not Ramnaresh Sarwan firing on all cylinders, Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle, Jerome Taylor or Marlon Samuels got the job done.

The display was enough to convince the India Board to make West Indies part of the Tri Nation series.

If they maintain that successful streak in Malaysia, West Indies will automatically make themselves favorites to retain the Champions Trophy title.

Out of the blue they topped everyone else to give Lara his biggest success story ever as captain and their first hold on the competition’s title two years ago.

The unpredictable Windians proved they are talented enough to pull off long- shot

triumphs once they put their mind to the task.

None of the players know what World Cup success tastes like and it would be nothing less than spectacular if the pack of young, athletic hotshots, capitalize on home advantage to give West Indies its hat-trick of titles.

At 34 years of age Ganguly would be even more deserving of a World Cup champion medal than his younger peers from the Caribbean.

With 10,123 runs for an average of 40.60 the left-hander is one of the most successful Indian batsmen at one-day level.

And from the looks of this Indian batting lineup he should be an automatic selection.
Chappell’s bias to expose younger talents like Suresh Raina would not make them good enough in time for next March-April World Cup. They just are not good enough.

On the other hand, Ganguly has proven himself many times over, but is being penalized for his qualities or non thereof, as a person that inhibits bonding among the players.

And knowing Chappell, the left hander from Kolata would remain there, as long as the Australian remains with the team.

But from a spectator’s perspective Ganguly’s flashing blade would be a joy to behold even in the sunset of his career.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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