The best man for the job has become a target of ridicule

SOURAV GANGULY is under scrutiny from everyone. From the panwallah to the most knowledgeable have all been giving their opinion on his captaincy and batting without giving a thought to the kind of pressure the man must be under. It is not easy to lead India and I can well understand how Sourav must be feeling at the end of the day. Alone and dejected with few to fall back on.

When he was appointed captain, it was said that he got the job by default. Sachin Tendulkar had said no to the job and it was left to Sourav to handle the responsibility. When he beat the Aussies at their own game it was said that Sourav was the best man for the job. How come the same man has become a target of ridicule for all and sundry now.

I am not saying he is without any flaws. He is also human and likely to make mistakes. What we have to see is whether he repeats those mistakes. We have to look at his contributions in the past before making a sweeping judgement on his calibre.

I know there have been some very strong captains. Like Mike Brearley and Mark Taylor who did not allow their batting form to affect their captaincy. But it is not the case with Sourav who has to click with the bat to raise the level of his captaincy and along with it the spirit of the side.

From what I have seen of Sourav of late, it is quite clear that he is feeling the pressure. The pressure has come from forces outside the camp because I know even the players are concerned that their skipper is going through such a tough time. It is this concern of the mates that matters a lot because Sourav needs them as much as they need him. His aggressive captaincy is what endures him to the rest and it is this aggressive captaincy which he needs to discover.

Brearley and Taylor did not allow their poor form to interfere with their captaincy but sadly Sourav has become a victim of his poor form. He was known for his exuberance and he was aware of the fact that his lively movements on the field went a long way in lifting the spirit of the team. In the last three series against South Africa, Sri Lanka and England he has looked a shadow of himself. He is now pondering and wondering, just not sure where his runs are going to come from.

It is a strange Sourav that I have seen in the past few months. Believe me he is as committed as anyone else and very keen to overcome this bad patch but things have not worked in his favour at all. I know how serious he takes his batting. A failure on the field could even mean Sourav going to bed without dinner. He is so sentimental about his batting. Having known him from close I think it is very important that Sourav comes out of this rut as soon as possible. Sourav has not been able to separate his batting problems from his captaincy cares and this factor has been the main reason for his failures. His batting problems are self-made because of his desire to imitate others.

His backfoot shuffle has spelt doom for him on so many occasions and yet he has not been able to discard this tactic. He must remember that transfer of weight is the most important aspect of batting and I think he has not been able to understand this point in recent times.

It is a fact that Sourav's best scores have come when he has played with confidence on the front foot. Now he has been concentrating too much on playing back and has repeatedly got out. Another problem with his dismissals is that he has looked casual when getting out and that is not the truth. He has been battling with himself to try and regain his form.

I am sure that Sourav's problems would disappear once he starts batting as we have known him to. It has been a long bad patch but I am sure he would be able to overcome it. Let him remember that all his quality knocks have come when he has batted confidently on his front foot strength. He has looked very competent when playing on the front foot and he should not do things to harm his originality. He must not imitate anyone.

Sourav should look at Anil Kumble and see how his mate has made such a strong comeback. I was very impressed by Kumble's temperament after being troubled by a shoulder injury. Any other player would have preferred a comeback in favourable conditions but Kumble, being a fighter, opted to script it in hostile conditions in South Africa. It is this attitude that has enabled Kumble to make a place for himself.

I have heard a lot of talk about the old Indian spinners being so successful. I have nothing against them and I accept they were wonderful bowlers but Kumble stands ahead of them in strike rate. Kumble stands out as more consistent. Kumble knows his limitations and never tries to bowl beyond them. That is his strength. Ganguly should also realise that he has to play to his strength and not experiment when in poor form.

Kumble is a legend and his career should guide the rest in the team. He has been around for a decade now and I salute his temperament and wish Sourav borrows some of it. It is time Sourav reviews his approach in order to stop all this talk of change in captaincy. When he performs with the bat he looks too good and that is the Sourav we all would like to see. Not the sulking and fuming Sourav. The solution lies in his batting form and he must start scoring runs. Or else, he might lose captaincy, and he would have only himself to blame.

Before I conclude, a word about the Challenger Series. In my opinion, it was an exciting tournament where the juniors taught the seniors a lesson.

India 'A' deserves compliment for its fine showing and I must say the Board has done well to have such a competition. It parades the cream of country's talent and gives the National selectors a platform to see them all in a span of four days. We need more such tournaments to improve the standard of domestic cricket.