Is the Ganguly issue dead? Forget it

Much will be learnt about Ganguly, and Indian Cricket, in Pakistan. Much has been learnt already. Primarily that we still haven't discovered that team comes before individual in cricket.-V.V.KRISHNAN

Indian cricket needs to settle down, it needs more cool heads than hot passions, it needs egos to be subdued rather than former selectors taking pointless pot shots at the coach, writes ROHIT BRIJNATH

INDIA'S team is about to confront a resourceful and renewed opponent across the border and team balance, studying Shoaib and dismantling Inzy should be top of the agenda. Of course that would be the logical approach, the practical attitude, but then this is Indian cricket, we are far too sensible for that. Almost inevitably, discussion will be reserved for more pressing matters. Like Ganguly. And this time it isn't even his fault.

Chances are that even when the Indian team arrives in Pakistan, we'll be debating, arguing, wrestling over Ganguly. It's the only sport we know these days. Will he play in the XI, where will he bat and if he doesn't whose effigy should we burn? Soon enough even Musharraf will have his say.

If Ganguly is pushed up the order is it a compliment or conspiracy, if he is pushed down is it sensible or insulting? If he fields at fine leg is Greg Chappell sending him a signal, if he goes to slip are they teasing him? Shoaib, hold on, we haven't finished here yet.

Who did Ganguly sit next to for breakfast, who did he chat to at practice and what inputs did he give in the meeting? All this will be assiduously calculated, chewed on and interpreted. Is the trainer helping him or ignoring him and what does it all mean? We will want to know everything, including what his tea leaves say, and forget whether Mohammed Yousuf is hitting the ball well or Yuvraj is wondering whether he will play or not. Cricket will take a backseat. It often does in India.

Ganguly's failures will get magnified, his success will be exaggerated, and proportion will be left behind in the hotel room. The cult of the superstar is very much intact.

Of course, one result of the endless bickering, protests, falsehoods (Ganguly a Test all-rounder? Even he might blush) and about-turns of this disquieting saga is that the pressure on Ganguly will be enormous and the former captain will be under painful scrutiny.

The selectors may have flip-flopped but they have picked him and he must respond with runs. Eventually performance is the best answer. As captain, Ganguly was accorded resolute support from Dravid, and from his senior men like Kumble and Tendulkar, and must now repay the favour.

Much will be learnt about Ganguly, and Indian cricket, in Pakistan. Much has been learnt already. Primarily that we still haven't discovered that team comes before individual in cricket, that one man cannot be more important than a collective cause. One day, presumably, we will figure it out.

That one player's predicament should become an issue that some believed was worth a discussion in parliament reflects both on our cricket and on our leaders. Of course, with politicians heading so many of our sporting bodies, perhaps it was almost inevitable.

Politicians will play to the gallery, it is part of their job description. But they are also supposed to set an example and some of the hysteria over Ganguly was unbecoming. Do selectors now have to get their team ratified by state leaders? Will the captain's on-field decisions during a Test match loss become worthy of an inquiry? Considering the parochialism on show, should we just insist on a quota system in the team? Our cricket is teetering on the edge of such absurdity.

India is known to crow about being the world's richest cricketing body, and good for us, but perhaps there is some merit in wanting to be the wisest as well. Across the world, much sniggering and shaking of heads has followed the Ganguly episode. Not that cricket elsewhere is run perfectly (Ricky Ponting, for instance, needs a rap on his knuckles for excessive arguing with umpires and the Australians for over-appealing), but few look at us as leaders of the game, on the field or off it. Not all of it can be put down to black and white.

Maturity seems to elude Indian cricket. Everything is a plot, every quote part of a conspiracy, every decision picked apart to see who it may possibly insult, every dropping of a player a vendetta. Our cricket has become too personal. Decisions by captains and coaches deserve to be debated, but not purely with emotion but cricketing logic. Slurs are imagined, put-downs are invented, grievances are aired, effigies burnt. Are we here to win or to hold hands?

One of the many points of view that arose from the Ganguly debate was that a player who has contributed so much should not be treated so poorly. Fair enough, one might say. Except that does that mean it is acceptable to treat a lesser player disgracefully?

If the man in question was Pathan, only a few cricketing years old, would we just shrug. Isn't he, by virtue of wearing an India cap, irrespective of for how long, as important? What message does it send to the team, where every player should be seen as equal? Is fame getting in the way of selection, is being in the team now a popularity contest?

It was also reported that BCCI boss Sharad Pawar met some senior players and then asserted they do not feel Ganguly causes problems within the dressing room? Again, irrespective of the truth, it was a desperately na�ve statement. Players support one another, it's what they do. Secondly, no one would dare criticise Ganguly for such an opinion would never stay private and would be revealed the next day and the offending player would be garlanded with chappals. Fact is, Pawar does not live in the dressing room, he has absolutely no idea what occurs in it on a daily basis and neither mostly do we.

Indian cricket needs to settle down, it needs more cool heads than hot passions, it needs egos to be subdued rather than former selectors taking pointless pot shots at the coach. Not everyone in Australian cricket likes each other. Or even respects each other. But mostly they get along, focused on fashioning a world-beating team, understanding the power of people working in unison. Indian cricket has become too prone to distraction. The big picture has been obscured by the petty grievance.