After watching the natak and the tamasha of the last month over first the ouster of Jaggi Dalmiya, second the ascendency of Sharad Pawar, third almost Kreon-like usurption of chairmanship by Kiran More, fourth the carefully orchestrated press conferences opened with unseeming regularity, akin to the Minardis coming out for early qualifying in Formula-1, by Niranjan Shah followed by the Medea-like pronouncements of Kiran More, fifth the ease with which Greg Chappell slipping into the Chanakya-seat of politics left vacant by John Wright, am not amused, bemused, surprised and shocked (not necessarily in that order) at the treatment meted out to Sourav 'Dada' Ganguly.
Let me throw in my bit of contribution to the nostalgic singing of the halcyon days of The Prince of Bengal and the apocalypse that he did not forsee, coming from the Frog Prince of 1992 World Cup Kiran More. In fact, I am a bit let down, if at all, by Sourav for not forseeing things of the future. The pedigreed man that he is, Ganguly must have actually dealt the Coup de Grace by refuting the offer in the team in the first place, after having just the other day proved he is a match-winning bowler, then going on to score the hundred and then showing he still is the unofficial King Arthur of Indian Captaincy. Let tongues wag that Sourav's record as the most successful Indian Captain hides behind the fact that he won against meeker teams; let tails sprite themselves up in air that his centuries and big scores have come against weaker teams. Still, why didn't the others score. Why did no other captain succeed where he did? The same was said of Azhar. Sometimes I think Sachin is a better politician or at least a diplomat. He is adept at the art of projecting himself as a sentimental victim worthy to empthaise with. Poor Sourav was the faithful Kumbhakarna to Ravan Dalmiya while Sachin is the eternally smart low-key Vibhishina who takes refuge with the alternate power-brokers. Of course, he has resurrected himself as the virtuous Ram who tugs at the heart-strings of every mother and mother's son of Bharath. Let's not get sidetracked in sentiments or extended metaphors. The fact of the matter is, from the 1992 Frog Dance days to the 2005 Chairmanship time, More has carefully moved from chiaroscuros and bas reliefs to digitised anime. He has rightfully served reminder of his street-fighting doughtiness that was evidenced first against Javed Miandad on 4th March 1992 when India met Pakistan for the first time in a World Cup match in Australia. Of course, Javed and Imran's tigers had the last laugh by lifting the coveted trophy.
Again, to get some facts right. 1989... India-Pakistan series in Pakistan. First ODI, Pak beats India in a curtailed match. ODI 2 washed out. ODI 3 washed out, ODI 4 Pak wins the series 2-0. And three people made their debuts then. Very forgettable. A young Tendulkar and not too old Salil Ankola and Vivek Razdan. Of course, after a banging 5-wkt haul test debut, Razdan faded and Ankola hung around for a while in and out thanks to his Sonu Nigam looks. I don't find much difference between a singer who looks good and wants to act and a cricketer who looks good and wants to bowl. And what of the eternal pet Ajit Agarkar. Where does he hail from, dearie? But what we are missing here is... the Mumbai factor never ceased its continuum in Indian cricket. Only by a steady progression it has become a Maharashtrian factor, thanks to the Rashtriya passion - the Sena - Rashtriya - Bhartiya combine that brought back Maharashtra and Mumbai back in contention in the national scheme of things when their cricketing roots slept for a while. It has been a while any serious cricketer of repute has come from that part of the world. And to think that not only have Tamilnadu been meted out bad treatment at the national level of selection, but also Delhi has carefully been kept at bay. Of course, Tamilnadu is anyway on the Bay... and they have to carefully deal with Delhi, being the centre that can hold. One look at the Delhi-Mumbai encounters can tell you the story as much as Mumbai-TN duels, which comparatively are far and few. We have anyway our own TN-Karnataka skirmishes to deal with. So Razdan went out. Coincidentally, Vivek grew up with the MRF Pace Foundation in TN and studied at Guru Nanak College before graduating to play for India Pistons in the TNCA First Division League. So... too many connections that only make logical his dumping. Of course, all these had nothing to play in his non-playing. But back to More and more Maharashtra...
This man More says Sourav was chosen for his all-round ability. Then why forego a bowler. And a lot of people know that Kaif is more a test-temperament cricketer than Yuvraj (which incidentally is Prince in the Indian language, though not of Kolkatta). And if the logic is Sourav played well, but we are looking to fill the opener slot and we don't want Sourav at No 6 because we have another Prince now, why not put him up the order? Oh! What will the world think if we put him as opener and drop Gambhir out of the 15 and Sourav out of the 11? After all, Sourav was India's captain, he is a seasoned-campaigner who cannot be put on reserve, but Gautam is just new to the game of dumping, he won't mind being thrown about! And what of Wasim Jaffer? Oh, he has scored tons of runs in the Ranji with an average of 89. So? You remember Raman Lamba, Bhaskar Pillai, Robin Singh... the list of people scoring tens of hundres of runs in a Ranji season is endless given the fact that the Mumbais and the Delhiites play in a weak section of the draw filled in numbers with Vidharba and Sourashtra or Himachal Pradesh and J&K. And after all, to refresh the memories of that eventful 1989 Indo-Pak series where Tendla made his debut, one Mr. Ajay Jadeja opened the innings and with unfailing consistency scored at 45% strike rate in the ODIs. If Gambhir gets out playing across the line early and Wasim Jafer than was dumped out because of his half-cocked batting style, how bad can Sourav the man who has scored the 4th highest aggregate in both forms of cricket be? And today because Jafer has lot of runs behind him the last two seasons, he is good eh? Then put Yere Goud in the middle order. He has been the hub of Railways' Ranji campaign the last 3 seasons successfully. Nope. Wasim Jafer, Sachin Tendulkar and Ajit Agarkar are from Mumbai, Sharad Pawar is Mumbai and More is Maharashtra...
Wow! Wah Huzoor More-ji... Then why bring Sourav back at all? There is a lot of lip-service in this deal. And let us not forget where Gautham Gambhir hails from nor which zone and state he plays for. But then, it is only logical. Virendar comes from thereabouts too! So how can there by more representations when these days, in the name of rota and allocation and quota and reservation and roulette, even huge international teams like Australia and S.Africa and England end up playing in Bikaner and Agartala and Kohima! Oh that? It is the Calibans getting back at Prosperos of the world. Post-colonialism Cricket. Lagaan-ing. Englishmen? How else can we beat them if we don't play their warm-up matches in areas that could warm the cockles of their intestines with bad food and cockroach rooms and bumpy roads? You see, Indians, am proud to say (because am bored with the cliche "I am ashamed to say"!), have low self-esteem, lower diplomacy, high sycophancy, higher lack of self-belief to go out and shoot straight.
A Little Digression. Have you noticed the planning Aussies do with their schedule? Very smart. Every series starts with a couple of diplomacy matches where they let couple of their sharp-shooters (on-field of course!) humiliate the visiting team before the latter gets acclimatised, then demoralise them with Pigeon-ing and Punt-ing (aka sledging with the help of Fourth Estate) and then play a couple of tests (where they really fight aggressively) and put some key players on either psychological or physical injury list. And then disrupt the Test match frame of mind and rhythm with an intrusive and tough-ball B&H Series... then get back to continue the Test Matches. They of course have such a depth of bench that they have different players for two different types of games, if required. Why won't they win with such careful orchestration and planning. Battles are won in the mind. And that is what brings us back to L'Affaire Sourav.
Sourav Ganguly brought back a team in disarray, a board in Macbethian shame of match-fixing thanks to the Three Witches (aka Cronje, Azhar and that bookie whose name I forget), a country desolate in the habit of sinking to the level of the lowest opposition. Let it be said that he established for India an unenviable record of losing the Finals of ODI serii! Don't matter. He created what you proudly today claim Team India, Sahara Parivar, the Pepsi Men in Blue, the Huddle-Bubble Hindustani spirit that Rahul "Agent Smith-look" Dravid has taken over. Of course, I have nothing against poor Rahul. But it is all Olympian... the plans. There is always a pattern to the destinies and cross-destinies in the Greek Mythology. From Zeus to Seuss, they are all macabre people. It used to be Dalmiya and Ganguly, it is now More and someone else... It used to be Wright and now it is Greg. Under Ganguly it used to be the Shiv Sundar Dases, Deep Das Guptas, Saba Karims... it is now the Gambhirs and Yuvrajs and JP Yadavs... All this points to one thing. We love to play our cricket off the field. After all, cricket these days is a mind-game. Ask John Buchanan, Bob Woolmer, Tom Moody... and then again ask also the Laxmans and Dinesh Kaarthicks and Venugopala Raos and the Badanis... Isn't this the land that made Shatranj ki Khiladi! And chess is politics (you ask the Russians about it!), politics is Congress, Sharad Pawar is (or was?) Congress... the next of kin to the Raj... but there is 'more' to this than meets the eye. Don't be surprised there is a little more at the ICC Meetings at Lords sooner than later. The true Macbeth is out there. A little medium at large. Beware the ides of March, for it all became apparent on that eventful day - 4th March and the juggernaut rolls, nought-ing even the jaggis of Indian cricket.