By Lokendra Pratap Sahi
Calcutta, May 11 (The Telegraph): It wasn’t too long ago that Pune Warriors India owner Subrata Roy declared that Sourav Ganguly would be the boss in cricketing matters.
Cut to last evening, when Roy made the biggest cricket-specific announcement of the season. It concerned Sourav and was made unilaterally.
As a fallout, the Warriors’ captaincy against the Royal Challengers Bangalore went to Steve Smith, the street-smart Australian.
It’s interesting that Smith, who led the Sydney Sixers to victory in the T20 Big Bash back home, got the top job despite the presence of Michael Clarke, Australia’s Test and ODI captain.
The change in captaincy made no difference to the result, though, with the Warriors being defeated yet again. It’s quite an achievement to lose seven in a row.
As Imran Khan would say, “if not anything else, the team has been consistent”.
Officially, Sourav “rested himself”.
That’s going by what Smith told the world, at the toss.
Sourav put up a none too brave face during a brief interview to the IPL’s broadcaster, but did make the point that he’d be back as captain in the Warriors’ next match, against the Rajasthan Royals, in Jaipur, on Sunday.
“I don’t know why there’s so much of speculation going on... I’ve taken a break… It has been a long time on the road and wanted to give an opportunity to the youngsters,” he maintained.
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Sourav may turn in a stellar performance in two days, but his image has again taken a beating.
India’s most successful Test captain deserves better, but he has to take much of the blame for placing himself in a situation where the owner has to publicly tell him what to do.
This would have been avoided had Sourav either called it quits after going unsold in the January 2011 auction or if he’d decided to end his innings after being forced to bat at No. 7 in the high-voltage clash against the Kolkata Knight Riders.
The Warriors didn’t bid for Sourav in last year’s auction (which was a surprise given his relationship with the Roys) but took him on board as Ashish Nehra’s replacement. It was a backdoor entry into the IPL. Understandably, the move wasn’t applauded across the fraternity.
Clearly, right now, Shah Rukh Khan, principal owner of the Knights, must be breaking into a chuckle. Even two Australians — Sourav’s friend-turned-foe Greg Chappell and John Buchanan.
The Knights’ team room in the first two seasons had been much too small for three strong-minded individuals. While Buchanan got the sack after two seasons, Sourav lasted just a season more.
Back in 2005 and 2006, Sourav, who believes in the captain being the absolute boss, had run into problems with Chappell. Ironically, Sourav had helped him become the India coach!
According to The Telegraph’s sources, Sourav was jolted by Roy’s comments. First, that he’d only be the mentor next season and that he (Sourav) wanted to give “youngsters a chance”.
Nothing wrong with the latter bit, but Sourav should have said so himself, not the owner. As for the mentor (made so fashionable in the IPL) role, it was made public without “any discussion” with Sourav.
Sourav himself acknowledged it.
“I really don’t know (about the mentor business)... But, then, I always make the headlines in a good way, in a bad way and in all the ways... I just deal with it. That’s the way it is,” he said.
Somebody senior associated with the Warriors admitted that “there had been no communication between the chairman (Roy) and the captain (Sourav)”.
He also conceded that “communicating through the media” would add to the franchise’s woes.
The Warriors began with three wins in the first four matches, but began to fall apart all too soon. The only bright moment after the great start was when Sourav led from the front in the terrific win over the Delhi DareDevils.
But Sourav’s strike rate is not worth boasting (100.77) and, just months away from his 40th birthday, he’s not getting any younger.
Much was expected from Clarke, but he hasn’t made a difference. Not so far, at least.
The Knights, on the other hand, have gone from strength to strength. Captain Gautam Gambhir’s form has been critical in their progress.
According to quick Brett Lee, the combination of Gambhir and coach Trevor Bayliss has “worked wonders”.
Speaking exclusively, Brett said: “I don’t know what the future holds, but we have the most chilled out captain and a coach who treats wins and losses equally.”
Bayliss is a former coach of Sri Lanka.
Footnote: The ongoing edition of the IPL hasn’t been kind towards the captains, with Kumar Sangakkara dropping himself for a match and Daniel Vettori going out of the XI.