Friday, November 14, 2008

Ganguly Series: His Selection & First Test Tour

His Selection: Ganguly's Test Debut was symptomatic of his entire career. One of the things that always bothered me about Ganguly was his selection. From his debut to the end of his career, his entry or exit into the team had little to do with his scores. It was arbitrary factors such as the famous East Zone quota, Sambran Banerjee, the collective anger of Bengal, differences with coach, change of selection committee, selection based on imminent retirement - which either got him in or kicked him out.

Memories of His First Test Tour: After India's semi final fiasco in the 1996 world cup, it was kind of evident that the board was looking to make some big changes to the Indian team. With G.R Viswanath in as chief selector I was anticipating two things (a) More players from Karnataka and (b) No players from Tamil Nadu [That turned out to be reasonably true with the Indian team at some point in time having as much as 6 players from Karnataka]. In the sidelines something else was happening that did not get much attention until Ganguly came into the picture. The mandatory 1-ticket-for-east-zone was doing some musical chairs. After the 96 WC, when we toured Sharjah to play Pak & RSA (this was when Dravid made his ODI debut) small media hullaboo was made when the East Zone Quota was given to some dude called called Prashant Vaidya (who played 2 games and went away). Then we played a few games in Singapore and the left to England amid controversy.

The bigger controversy was that Kambli was dropped on disciplinary grounds in spite of having a 50+ test average. The smaller controversy was that the East Zone ticket was given to some dude called Saurav Ganguly. The papers constantly reported the Mumbai lobby perspective. ESPN made its entry into India and the 96 England tour was the first tour shown on ESPN (as opposed to Prime Sports). Since the cable operators weren't awake to this change - not all of them showed ESPN - so all my friends had to gather in a place where ESPN was on. We had a month long lead-up to the English tour and it wasn't uncommon to find every press reporter worth his salt writing a critical comment on Saurav's selection. The current chief of selectors Krish Srikkanth wrote several such articles. Ravi Shastri, Sunny Gavaskar weren't exceptions (they liked Mhambrey's selection of course). I do not recollect a single article that did not diss Ganguly. The first time I saw Saurav bat was in the tour games (the tour games were shown on Prime Sports). More specifically, in games captained by sachin as opposed to the regular captain Azhar (who was at the height of Sangeeta Bijilani episode). Strangely enough, Saurav's actual test debut also happened as a result of a non-cricketing reason. In one of the most bizairre developments seen in the cricketing world, the completely mad Navjot Sidhu walked out midway during the England tour in a huff (he had argued with Azhar about some stupid thing and left the touring party). Furthermore, Manjrekar was injured. So Ganguly/Dravid debuted in Lords. Thank god for Sidhu's madness.

In a way it was change of guard. Ganguly took over Kambli's batting spot and Dravid eventually occupied Manjrekar's spot.

1 comment:

Vikram Bondal said...

Wow!! Awesome post,brought back some gr8 memories for me :D.