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Saurav earns plaudits from Sachin; and the pot of gold besides

Prem Panicker

30 October 1996

During India's Toronto odyssey, there was some speculation that Sachin Tendulkar had no time to spare for Saurav Ganguly - at least in the limited-over format of the game.

All that can now be laid to rest - the Indian skipper is positive that Sidhu or no, Ganguly is his preferred opening partner for the limited overs game.

``I would like to open with Saurav,'' Tendulkar says. ``We combine well together, the left-right combination can be unsettling as we found when even the South African bowlers had trouble changing their line of attack.

``I would prefer to have Sidhu at one drop, followed by Azhar, and Dravid batting five. Which means that after the openers, we have India's two most experienced batsmen to come in one after the other, followed by Dravid who is one of the busiest of our young batsmen. Rahul is good at working the singles, he has strokes all round the wicket. He was used at number three to provide stability, but I think that job should now be done by Sidhu and Azhar with Dravid left free to play a natural game. And if we go in with six batsmen, then Jadeja joins Dravid in the busy end phase of the game - both are good judges of a run, adept at working the ball around and rotating strike. It makes for a good combination.''

Asked about Saurav's constant shuffling up and down the batting order, the Indian skipper said that it was inevitable while the team tried to find an ideal opener. Now that Ganguly himself looked good in that slot, the shuffling and reshuffling would be put an end to, Sachin pointed out.

``I think Saurav is a fantastic player. If he is allowed to settle down and he gets going, he will win matches for India,'' Tendulkar enthused. ``He is very gifted, has no weak points as far as I know. I see a perfect player, what we need to do is make sure that no extra pressure is put on him now.''

When asked whether he agreed with expert opinion that Saurav was weak on the leg side, espcially off his pads, Tendulkar had a ready response. ``I think the experts don't need to worry about that,'' said Sachin. ``And neither does Saurav. As long as he keeps his head, he will get runs all round the wicket, and that will shut everyone up.''

Asked whether the Tendulkar-Ganguly partnership wasn't a bit on the slow side, Tendulkar readily admitted it was. ``But then,'' he analysed, ``we should remember that the South African bowlers bowled superbly. Also, it was the first time Saurav was being tried in that slot and you don't expect a batsman to fire straight off. I believe he should be allowed to settle down to his new role - he is a classy player, especially through the off, and he has the ability to go over the top and exploit the field restrictions early on.''

The Indian skipper's perception of Ganguly's future appears to be shared by the corporate world as well, funnily enough.

Thus, Saurav Ganguly has signed a megabuck deal with WorldTel, the US based company, according to which WorldTel will market the young cricket star and pay him a minimum guarantee of Rs three million per year, over a period of three years.

This sum, mind, is merely the minimum guarantee. Ganguly will, in addition, gain 75 per cent of every rupee WorlTel makes on him after the minimum guarantee has been met.

The deal is far short of the $7.5 million minimum guarantee assured to Tendulkar himself by WorldTel for the same three-year period, but given that Tendulkar is an established star while Ganguly is in his first season in international cricket, the amount quoted is way beyond anything every paid to an Indian cricketer at a similar stage in his career.

WorldTel has already begun negotiating with Phillips, whose products are also being endorsed by Tendulkar.

Earlier, Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited had tried to enter into a similar deal with Ganguly. The batsman, however, called it off when ABCL, though willing to pay 85 per cent of all earnings, refused to promise him a minimum guarantee.

Then came MRF - and here again, negotiations to have the tyre giant's logo adorning Ganguly's bat broke down at the last minute owing to monetary considerations. Again, it is interesting to note that the MRF logo is prominently displayed on Sachin's bat.

WorldTel boss Mark Mascarenhas believes that in Ganguly, his outfit has picked a winner and that the young batting star is a sure money-spinner as a model.

We'll know soon enough, when the Tata Coffee commercial begins airing on telly any time now. The shooting was completed in Bombay a fortnight ago, and features Ganguly in tandem with no less than Bollywood star Sridevi.

What it all means is that Ganguly, newly married in true Romeo and Juliet style to Dona Roy, daughter of a business foe of his father's, has no need to worry about where his next meal is coming from.

All he needs to worry about is getting runs. Tons of them...

For if it is promise that has induced WorldTel - interestingly, at the urging of no less than Ravi Shastri - to sign on Ganguly, it is performance that will bring the sponsors and corporate clients flocking to his doorstep.

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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 15:29