These are bad times for Indian cricketers, who returned after an eminently forgettable show in the two-Test series against New Zealand.
Everyone knows skipper M.S. Dhoni has this habit of skipping press conferences when it gets too hot to handle. And at times, when he still shows up before the media corps, he will talk so positively, you will wonder whether we were watching the same match.
Call it the arrogance of the skipper or the way he is, nobody can touch Dhoni and he is a certainty to lead in all formats of the game, unless he has an injury.
The other day when former India captain Sourav Ganguly was talking about Team India’s debacle in New Zealand on air, he described Dhoni’s captaincy as “obnoxious”. In India, anyone who watches cricket is a critic in his own right. You and I will readily say Dhoni’s captaincy is bad or Dhoni is arrogant. All that is fine but for a former captain to describe Dhoni’s captaincy as “obnoxious” is indeed very strong.
To the knowledgeable and discerning cricket fan, there is pain and anguish when the team does badly, more so on away tours. It takes time to get over defeats and the manner in which Team India lost to the low-ranked Black Caps is sad.
Coming back to Ganguly, we all look at him in awe when he speaks or writes. In the good old days, I have seen the Prince of Kolkata pen lines in a cursive writing style which would catch the eye.
I would have imagined that for someone who is so classy, on and off the field, the choice of words to describe cricketers would be chosen with more care. Ganguly has been one of India’s best captains and his swagger on the Lord’s balcony can never be forgotten, though Bishan Bedi may think otherwise! Ganguly must not forget that when he was India captain, he was also under intense scrutiny. No doubt, his decisions were bold but tongues did wag when he backed certain cricketers to the hilt.
If you rewind to 2003, when the ICC World Cup was played in South Africa, there was huge pressure on skipper Ganguly and the team. It was one of the sturdiest teams India had and the virtual ‘who’s who’ played -- including Javagal Srinath, Rahul Dravid and also Sachin Tendulkar.
At that time, the entire team felt former India captain Sunil Gavaskar was very sharp and his criticism of the team in newspaper columns was not welcome. Ganguly and the team closed ranks and decided to stay inert to Sunny’s criticism though the team did well to reach the final before losing to Australia.
My point is Ganguly needs to reflect hard on what he is saying. He has never been a fan of Dhoni’s captaincy but to be very harsh is not done.
We all feel bad the team has flopped, but when you have to be critical, it can still be done without using words which are just too strong. It is one thing for heartless hacks to tear apart sportspersons and quite another for a former India captain to wade into Dhoni.
Condemn Dhoni if you wish, but do not curse him as he is going to be your captain for the 2015 World Cup as well.
And at this point of time, it is hard to imagine the Sandeep Patil-led selection committee is going to change Dhoni the Test captain.
It was also unfortunate to read Rahul Dravid serving notice on Zaheer Khan and asking him to reflect on his future.
The medium-pacer has been around for a while and served Indian cricket with distinction.
For someone with 311 Test wickets in his bag, Zaheer knows what it takes to perform at the highest level. Apart from being a bowler who still delivers in Tests, Zaheer also is a leader for the young pace pack.
If you look at Zaheer’s stats, in four Test matches in South Africa and New Zealand, he took 16 wickets. At this stage in his career, Zaheer Khan cannot be expected to bag many more wickets and if the failure has to be identified, it has to do with the other bowlers.
Dravid needs to recall the last phase of his own Test career.
After the 2011-12 tour of Australia, The Wall took two months to decide he was going to pack up before informing the Indian cricket board.
It is not as if Zaheer does not reflect on his own career. He knows his career in the shorter format is over and vis-a-vis Tests, he still has something to offer as his experience is a huge factor.
People like Zaheer don’t need to be put on notice at this stage of their careers. Retirement is such a touchy topic for professional sportspersons — they are the best judges of when to pack up. You and I cannot tell Zaheer or Virender Sehwag to retire from international cricket. At best, the selectors can decide whether or not to pick a cricketer.
I strongly believe Ganguly and Dravid need to choose their words when they criticise — on air or in print. As two icons of cricket, each word they say has very deep meaning.
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