So to compress time and juxtapose two very important things in cricket let me take you back to 1996. India had just lost the World Cup Semi-Finals against Lanka in Eden gardens, People were so over eager to have Sachin as captain and were blaming Azhar for "screwing up" by chosing to chase in Eden (when everybody were baying for his blood for batting first against SL in Kotla during the prelim games). Unsurprisingly Azhar was retained as captain until the England series.
After the World Cup India played a tri-series in Sharjah with Pak and South Africa. Sambran Banerjee was the selector representing East Zone. In those days people were hell bent on pushing a player from their zone. Much similar to now but then they were less subtle about it. So Sambran (who surprisingly was not critisized by experts for his lack of cricketing credentials - it is suddenly a big thing now) selected an East Zone player (Bhupinder Singh Jr (or something similar) ) for that tri-series in Sharjah. He failed obviously. I think Prashant Vaidya was the next obligatory team member, courtesy Sambran Banerjee, from East Zone for India's next tour to Singapore for a tri-series with Pak, Lanka. Rahul Dravid made his debut in this series (with a moustache and all). Then came the England tour. This was a longish tour for us. India had a month (imagine one full month of preparation) of 3-day 4-day games against several counties before playing their first International match. As part of India's holy tradition of selectoral/zonal politics another meritless player from East Zone was pushed into the Indian team. It was almost like a constitutional law. He had complete lack of merit (relative to Sharaths, Muzumdars and Laxmans in Ranji trophy). No business to be in the Indian team at all. But Sambran Banerjee pushed him in because India needed to have a E.Zone player. This player was Saurav Chandidas Ganguly.
What followed next was interesting for the next 30 days or so until the second Test at Lords, every reporter, journalist and commentator bitched about Ganguly's inclusion. Don't kid yourself - These are the very same people who are now mourning Ganguly's axing - Mohinder Amarnath, Yashpal Sharma, Srikkanth, Kapil Dev. Didn't know all this did ya? If you had forgotten, let me remind you. Everybody wrote at least 1 article or made 1 statement every day that Zonal politics was wrecking Indian cricket and that Ganguly's inclusion was the symptom of Zonal politics. Saurav, isnpite of being the most hated player then, played some tour matches. He played when Sachin captained a few tour matches. He would not have played in Lords if Manjrekar wasn't injured in the Edgbaston test and Sidhu didn't storm out the tour after a spat with Azhar. So he made his debut and scored a century. At this point all the people who were bitching big time turned hypocrites and said "He is India's future". I didn't like Ganguly even when he hit the century at Lords. Every time I looked at him for the next 9 years I thought - "he is a symbol of selectoral politics". The thing that surprises me was - how come the general Indian public are so stupid. Incredibly, unbelievably stupid. People have such short-term memory that it offends me that such people are allowed to watch cricket. How does one century change all the evil that happened before.
This has been and will be Indian cricket fan's major weakness. This stupidity of being emotional and calling that virtue a pride. I think its a sign of stupidity. Anything that focuses on emotion and not logic is stupidity. Ganguly scores 7 ducks and then he scores a century, people will say "look he proved himself - how can you say he is not a good batsman". The century does not erase the 7 ducks. It is still there. Look at the record books. Its still there. Thats why he is a bad batsman. Unsurprisingly, he turned out to be a below average test cricketer (mediocre at best) - who would have been dropped if he played for any other country way back in 2000 itself. In fact he made only 6 or 7 worthy contributions to Indian TEST cricket as a batsman. I can rattle of his contributions from the top of my head. Wait...In fact I will. In his nine year test career, the worthy contributions are - 2 centuries in England, 1996 (and a 99, 100+ in the next tour, 2002), 1 century in Australia, 2003, a 70 odd against Windies in POS, 2002, two 70's in the same test in Johanessberg in 97, a 90+ while chasing against SL in Kandy. This is all I can remember about him. I may have missed 1 or 2 innings. But in net - this is his contribution as a BATSMAN to Indian cricket. For a 9 year career - this mediocrity is so bad that it is almost offensive.
Having placed the context, let us watch the recent developments. He came into the team as an "allrounder". He was considered for a spot that Zaheer Khan was considered for and got selected ahead of Zaheer. That to me is again selectoral politics. But people don't notice it when he comes in. Selectors do not suddenly become biased or politics does not suddenly come into the picture. It has always been there, otherwise Ganguly wouldn't have played cricket at all. Gangulay is now dropped and replaced by an opener. So essentially Jaffer comes into a spot that Zaheer Khan was considered for. Ganguly is dropped because of selectoral politics. Yeah Dude "if you live by the sword you die by it". I have no sympathy for Ganguly. I think he fully deserves any kind of selectoral bias against him. There is so much catching up to do for his life to come a full circle. And where the hell would you play him in the squad? I dont think Yuvraj can be kept out NOW because 3 years ago Ganguly was considered a good player.
Finally, Everybody except Agarkar should be judged by performance to merit a place in the side. The captain should be selected after the team. There should be no doubt that a captain is a person who does his primary job well and then is good enough to take additional responsibility. Agarkar is the only exception. I think he should be made captain of the Indian team and also its Board President for the next 10 years. He himself is confused. While Ganguly is desparately trying to get in. Ajit wants to get out and he can't. Imagine that kind of a plight. Poor guy! He gets selected for a year based on just one good performance. He tries so hard to fail and by mistake he slips up and does well in one match and he again has to work hard to continue to fail for the next one year. In fact even the Lankan team wants him. Agarkar's incomptence is so attractive that board has given him permission to captain both teams.
We also must need to learn from Kolkata on how to be parochial. I in fact totally support parochiality. Look at them. They are very clear. Indian cricket comes second. Their man should be selected first. I agree with it. Maybe TN should do the same. Instead of standing up like old british ladies and applauding Pakitsan and Australia, Chennai should stop trying to earn the "sporting crowd" reputation. Tamil Nadu - has seen not once but twice, two captains go from being in captain in one test to either 12th man or out-of-the-squad in the next. Balaji is so casually dropped. Nobody even asks a question. Even the TNCA doesn't care to make at least one statement about Balaji's exclusion. Have you seen Andhra or Hyderabad make even a noise about Laxman's exclusion or Ambatti Rayudu being ignored? Seeing this I feel, Ganguly's issue is going to the parliament is ridiculous.
And another thing: Nobody HAS TO be given a decent exit. Its a privilege Kapil Dev, Viv Richards, Healy, Border, Miandad, Pataudi never got. You earn an exit that is worthy of your cricketing life. Imran Khan, Waugh and Gavaskar to an extent got it. Just to bring in a person back because he has to be given a decent exit insults the person more than the board. On top of it - all the idiots who have been talking about past acheivement - SHUT UP! Kapil Dev has 434 wickets and won the world Cup before, should he be playing NOW based on that historical fact? Should we then by the same account go and dig up Bradman from his grave and put him on the pitch? After all - Nobody has got a better record than Bradman. So shut up with the past acheivements thing. Everybody has an expiry date and Ganguly's seem well past his.
It reminds me of a the rich kids who come to play cricket with us when we were kids. they bring the cricket ball, stumps etc. If you dont let them play for long they will take back the ball, stumps and go home. We had one rich kid who was so obnoxious that we refused to talk to him. He went and complained to his father, who talked to the teacher. The next day the teacher told in class that we had to include him in our friends group. We were like... yeah...so..thats a nice way to become friends. Ganguly is in a similar situation. He can't survive more than a test if he is not a captain or if he does not have a zonal selector voting for him. The big daddies are trying to force his way into the Indian cricket team, which neither wants him nor needs him.
If he enters the team again, this will not be the first time his selection was influenced by politics. He is the only batsman who has never been judged (by fans, selectors or anybody) based on the runs he has scored. Funny word this - R U N S. Given that Ganguly is a "batsman" does anybody care to look at the R U N S he has scored? Its always -- "look what he has done for India, he made us fighters, he is passionate". But what about runs? Can you spell this word r u n s? Whats he done in that department?
Post Script: Despite the fact that I mentioned TEST cricket in capital letters, somebody will leave a comment talking about his ODI performances. Re-enforces a fact that many Indian fans are not educated enough to distinguish the two.
Somebody will talk about "patriotsim" throw out a couple of "mera bharat mahaan" kind of statements. I am not very sentimental about this kind of crap. I would have shown the middle finger to fans who performed my last rites when I am still alive. I totally agree with everything Greg Chappell has done. And I think he (and Dravid) will do a lot more good to Indian cricket than all the stupid "patriots" put together.