Sunday, October 16, 2005

Change of Guard

Leadership changes have never been easy in Indian cricket – in fact, one might extend that to all sub-continental cricketing nations – but when the incumbent decides that the time has not yet arrived for the change, the whole process degenerates into an ugly power struggle of the kind that has just been witnessed. One has to look back a couple of years to find a shining example of how it should be done - when Nasser Hussain so graciously offered to step down, having recognised a successor in Michael Vaughan and that his own batting had a shelf life. We have now travelled to the other end of the spectrum in the Ganguly-Chappell-Dravid-BCCI saga. In the process, the image of both Ganguly and the board have taken a bit of battering, although I must admit it is Ganguly who has come out worse off. Unfortunately for Ganguly, he does not have anyone else to blame but himself this time – his me-against-the-world posture will not wash, for there was no conspiracy to dethrone him surreptitiously. The coach was clear in his opinion (even if it was made public to suit some quarters) and the selection committee simply muddied the waters by dilly-dallying before and after the Sri Lanka tours. The discordant noises from within the side were natural given that he was a popular and successful captain who had backed some to the hilt and the declining fortunes of the team added to the mix. The new coach also threatened to upset the established order of the last few years, and not surprisingly ruffled feathers. Whether Chappell will be successful or not is a moot point – what is clear is that he has decided to be his own man, and has already taken a somewhat radical departure from the low-profile approach of John Wright. As his older brother indicated recently, speaking in a forthright manner is something the Chappells picked up at the breakfast table. It did not have to end this way for Ganguly. His legacy has now been tarnished by this wholly unnecessary scandal, particularly as he always had a number of detractors who were waiting for him to fail, and fail miserably. Our national character is such that there are always people from one part of the country who would like some others to fail. There is also no dearth of such people within the cricket establishment and the media, not just the public at large. No sooner than the scandal broke out, out came the likes of Raj Singh Dungarpur from the woodwork, spewing vitriol. In the end, the same vile characters that Ganguly had helped shut up found renewed energy to mount vicious attacks, and it was largely Ganguly himself who opened the door. - NK PS: Ganguly could have done without the likes of Lokendra Pratap Sahi doing his bidding. A champion sportsperson should seek redemption through his athletic gear, not media minions (not suggesting Sahi was acting at Ganguly’s behest).

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