There is little doubt that Sourav Ganguly must now bid farewell to International cricket. He has reacted to the polite suggestion of Indian Coach Greg Chappell that he make way for a better batsman in the Test team by acting like a prima dona. Even his latest Test century – his 12th, in which he became the eighth Indian batsman to chalk up 5,000 Test runs – was a cynical effort, consuming 262 balls against crappy Zimbabwean bowling, with a soft dismissal immediately upon reaching the three-digit mark.
I have long been a fan of Ganguly’s because his captaincy showed the tactical intuition that helped make India an exciting young team. And as recently as 2003, his bat was a significant weapon as well. He is smart, articulate, and intensely competitive – all good qualities in a captain. His cricket was not always of top quality – I can’t think of another cricketer who has carelessly run so many of his teammates out of good innings – but there is no question that India’s fairly decent run of good cricket over the last several years is in large part attributable to his captaincy.
But his time is up. He has not put in the work needed to regain even a semblance of the off-side batting form that once led Rahul Dravid to comment, “First there is God, then there is Ganguly.” And his hissy fit over Chappell’s honest assessment that he is not among the best XI, like his recent suspensions for dragging the team through tactically slow overs, show that his leadership skills are evaporating.
Who should now captain India?
In a sense, this is a moot question. If Ganguly goes, vice-captain Dravid will certainly get the nod. This is a shame. Dravid has distinguished himself as India’s most consistently clutch Test cricketer over the past several years – but I do not consider that excellence alone sufficient credentials for the job. Dravid lacks Ganguly’s natural feel for tactics. His bowling changes and field settings lack imagination and aggression. And there is no way that a guy who rarely seems to understand that the one-day game requires that a batsman bring a bit of urgency to the crease should have anything to do with planning strategy for ODIs.
India will be putting forward a more credible top-order with Ganguly in retirement, but the team will be missing the formidable on-field general who has served it so well. Now is the time to begin developing the next Ganguly. International cricket is in transition, with Australia no longer looking indomitable and every team beyond West Indies (which is in constant tumult), Zimbabwe (which is both tumultuous and shitty), and Bangladesh (which is just plain shitty) showing promise. Hopefully the next India captain will come to the fore soon and continue the team-building work that Sourav began so well.