Ganguly again?

V.V. KRISHNAN

One experiment the selectors wouldn't like to do is getting Ganguly back in the team unless either Dravid or Chappell take the initiative.

MONDAY, 28 November, is going to be a crucial day for Sourav Ganguly. It will decide whether he will get back into the Indian team. For the next one week from now, we will get to hear and read about Ganguly though it's exhausting to keep reading interviews of his family members and his friends about how hard `Dada' has been working.

The selectors have, to a certain extent, helped people talk. Injury and poor performance were, ironically, just excuses. The real reason for Ganguly's continuing exile is his willingness to create a massive controversy and land the selectors on the razor's edge in a nationwide crisis simply to dispense with a coach who wouldn't accept Ganguly's inadequate performances and lack of dedication.

The majority of former cricketers feel that the selectors should not select Ganguly again. The question is if Ganguly had not opened his mouth at the press conference in Zimbabwe, would these cricketers have said what they are saying now? Mind you, Ganguly hadn't been performing for a year and yet hardly any former cricketer suggested that he should be dropped.

Suddenly Ganguly is the villain of Indian cricket. That he is solely responsible for this mess is possibly accepted by him, but a time has come for the selectors to think of Team India. Should Ganguly be selected for Tests against Sri Lanka? Should he be asked to lead India in Tests only? Or should the selectors think of any of the younger lot to replace him permanently?

Three basic questions. Three answers, and that should end the debate on November 28.

Ganguly may have scored runs in Duleep Trophy but for a former captain to motivate himself on the field is not easy. There are two ways of looking at the Ganguly issue. The selectors wanted him to prove his match fitness, which he did by scoring runs against a good North Zone attack. Ganguly has now scored four first class hundreds in the past two months.

On merit of those performances, he should get selected as a batsman in the Indian team. But the other angle is whether he fits into the scheme of things, which is very important in a team game. There are 346 clubs in Mumbai but none of them wanted Abhijit Kale. I am not comparing Ganguly with Kale but one gets the impression that the team is wary of dressing room information getting leaked again.

The captain not long ago was praised for getting the players together. Today he is not wanted in the same dressing room. This has nothing to do with his runs. It's the changed atmosphere in the dressing room. Each captain has his style. Will Ganguly be able to adapt to the combined style of Dravid-Chappell? The same question was raised when Wadekar was appointed captain and Pataudi was staging a comeback.

Though there is a campaign going on to get Ganguly back as captain, it's unlikely to happen. When the combination of Dravid-Chappell is proving to be effective, why disturb the combination? As I see it, Ganguly may get selected as a player in Tests but if the think-tank — and that includes the selectors — are keen on getting a young player to play at number 5, then that's the end of Sourav Ganguly.

The situation may be unfair, but it's also quite understandable. There was a meeting of the review committee and the matter is over but it has shaken Indian cricket to such an extent that the email leak is remembered every time you discuss cricket. That email presented with clarity goings-on that everyone in the know in Indian cricket had ignored but no-one was astounded by what was in the email, only by the fact that it was now in the open.

The BCCI president, Ranbir Singh Mahindra, seems to have directed Kiran More, Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid to pick the final eleven on the morning of the match.

None of the other four selectors are involved in picking the final eleven. This clearly indicates the atmosphere is not yet conducive to good cricket. The directive of the president definitely has stopped secret information going to the media.

Indian cricket is gradually changing with successful experimentation. One even might see Dhoni replacing Dinesh Karthick in Tests. But one experiment the selectors wouldn't like to do is getting Ganguly back in the team unless either Dravid or Chappell take the initiative.

The undercurrents in the selectorial matters are so strong that no-one would like to take the initiative of getting Ganguly back. Otherwise, the next mess he pulls off will be a disaster in the lap of the first selector to recommend his inclusion. Ganguly has proved he's back as a performer, but how will he prove that he won't betray the coach or any of his team-mates at the next `convenient' juncture? There is no way to prove that, and it is a possibility that is overshadowing every positive.