Cricket Uncut

A group blog run by professional cricket writers from across the world

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Politics and the Indian captaincy

Sourav Ganguly had packed his bags, but the journey he meant to take never happened. This was before the Kanpur one-day international between India and Pakistan, and Ganguly’s appeal over his six-match ban had been submitted to the ICC, which had allowed him to play until it came to a decision. So he would play in the last two one-dayers, he thought. Then he found out he wasn’t included in the team. Not through the BCCI, but through the media. He unpacked.

I haven’t had any illusions for a while that the captaincy of India is decided not by what happens on the field, but by backroom politics. Ganguly, regardless of whether he deserved to be in the team or not, would remain captain for a while because he had the backing of Jagmohan Dalmiya and the Bengal lobby. An easy away series against Zimbabwe comes up next, and I was sure Ganguly would lead India to its first series win outside the subcontinent since 1986.

In politics, though, the sun rises from the West when you’re doing your surya namaskar and burns your ass, and you never know what will happen next. So it is turning out. Everybody assumed that Ranbir Singh Mahendra, who had been installed by Dalmiya as a puppet BCCI president, would do his master’s bidding. But just as a previous puppet, AC Muttiah, had risen up against Dalmiya, so is Mahendra, sources tell me. He is a senior politician from Haryana, and rumours are that he has now joined hands with an even bigger politician, Sharad Pawar. Mahendra, as a front for Dalmiya, had beaten Pawar in the last elections for BCCI president. What would their coming together mean for Indian cricket?

One, it would mean that Dalmiya’s days as the omnipotent force in the BCCI could come to an end. Two, it would mean that Ganguly is finished. Why so? Because Mahendra was the manager of the 1991-92 tour to Australia in which Ganguly went, and the two did not get along there. Later, in an interview to, Ganguly was to describe Mahendra as “probably the worst guy I have ever seen in my life” and “a shame, a shame to Indian cricket.” If Mahendra starts asserting the power he technically holds as BCCI president, Ganguly is history.

How much credence would I give to these rumours? I’d take them pretty seriously. What else could explain Ganguly not playing the last two ODIs despite being eligible, and being treated in such a manner? And SK Nair, the secretary of the BCCI, recently contradicted himself to the press on this issue, first saying that Ganguly was told about the decision to drop him, and then, on a separate occasion, admitting that Ganguly was not aware of his being dropped.

I have felt for a while that despite his outstanding record as captain, Ganguly’s batting has suffered, probably because of the pressures of captaincy. Indian cricket needs to move on unsentimentally, for the good of the side, as Australian cricket always does. But not in this manner. Ganguly should have been allowed to leave with dignity. Ideally the BCCI should have had a quiet word with him and asked him to step down from the captaincy gracefully, and given him another series to focus on his batting and try to pick up the pieces. But just as Ganguly tarnished his legacy by playing on for too long, the BCCI has disgraced Indian cricket with its treatment of a man who led India through such a crucial phase in its cricketing history.

In other other words, it is the right decision, taken for the wrong reasons, implemented in the wrong manner. This is no way to go.
amit varma, 8:16 AM| email this to a friend | permalink | homepage