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The writer in you

Caesar's assasins
Shivaji Sengupta - 19 February 2003

It is understandable that we 'non-cricketer' fans are outraged by the Indian team's performance in the current World Cup. We don't understand cricket. Our collective memories are short. When our idols fail, we are filled with disappointment and despair.

What strikes me, though, as very, very strange, even a bit sinister, is when established cricket journalists and past cricketers sound exactly like irate fans whilst analyzing Indian failure. As someone who has never played cricket at the highest level, I look up to the Gavaskars, the Prasannas, and the Srikkanths and read what they have to say about our team. But when these expert journalists begin to sound like ordinary fans gone furious and when their analyses are simply a series of vocatives - "they batted stupidly", "they have learned nothing from New Zealand" - I begin to wonder whether, like the cricketing outfit in South Africa, these journalists have also lost their sense of perspective. Remember how every school boy is told by his teacher that he ought to make an outline of his essay, ought to have a clear thesis, for otherwise his message won't come across? Well, that's how what I have felt like telling these august journalists after reading their views on Indian cricket.

Actually, I have been following them for quite some time now. I really don't buy the stuff that they are just cricketers, not accomplished writers. What I do expect is insightful analysis by them, not mere rants. When they don't do that, I don't put it down to an inability to write. I begin to suspect a collective hidden agenda like getting rid of the captain.

Just to give you an example: Sourav Ganguly's dismissal against Australia immediately sparked off cries of shame from the nay-sayers. Ravi Shastri, whose undoubted cricketing acumen has made him one of the most respected commentators of the game, called for Ganguly to come further down the order, citing that the latter's confidence is in tatters. Without mincing words, Shastri stated that he wanted Virender Sehwag to open.

What I saw on television was quite different, however. I saw that from the very first ball, the openers, Ganguly and Tendulkar, arguably one of the most successful opening partners in one-day internationals, take the attack to the Ausies. The camera panned on Ganguly's face: it was full of violence and determination. He attacked immediately, pulling, misconnecting but all the while, keeping the scoreboard moving. Then, suddenly, he was out, going for a drive to a ball that was going away. Gilchrist took a comfortable catch. And that, as they say, was that. Ganguly returned with nine to his name as India were reduced to twenty-two for one. As for the journalists, Ravi Shastri included, they began to buzz again: Ganguly, go!

Public memory is short. I remember in 2001, here in this same country (South Africa), this same Sourav Ganguly, he of the off drive, which according to Dravid, is next only to God's, scored a hundred and a eighty against South Africa. Time and time again, Pollock and Ntini fed him with balls going away that Ganguly hit for fours. The world was full of praise for him then.

In the final of that tournament, however, Pollock bowled him outside the off again. Ganguly went for the drive and was caught behind for fourteen. Immediately, the commentator criticized him for succumbing to the "snick" again. But Geoff Boycott, who was also commentating on that occasion, observed that the Indian captain had scored heavily with that shot in the past matches and no one had criticized him then. It was only now that he was out trying the same shot, all of a sudden he was "vulnerable to the snick", Boycott observed tongue-firmly-in- cheek.

Let us then give credit where it is due. What we all saw on that ill- fated Wednesday was a brilliant Australian performance, with bowlers, Lee and Gillespie firing in regularly around 145-150 km/hour while also being dead accurate. Yes, the Indians shouldn't have caved in like that, disgracing themselves by notching up their lowest World Cup score. But Ganguly and Tendulkar did not look nervous or intimidated. If anything, may be the Indian captain could have been a little more defensive.

They lost because of their traditional discomfort on pitches like these in South Africa. With this being the case, we should all have been extremely apprehensive about India's chances in this tournament. I know I was. In an earlier article published by Cricinfo, I had mentioned that they won't find playing even the likes of Andy Caddick, James Anderson and Steve Harmisson as easy as they did in England.

Now that my worst fears are coming true, I can only look forward. Hopefully, something good comes from even bad things. Indian cricketing authorities have probably realized that they have to do something to inject more life into pitches in India. If they don't learn the lesson after these two debacles in New Zealand and South Africa, then we fans can say good-bye to cricket.

Journalists like Gavaskar, Srikkanth and Ravi Shastri, for their part, can also help by constantly repeating the mantra of creating faster wickets in India. Perhaps they can give concrete suggestions about which Indian tournaments should adopt fast wickets. Either that or they can all raise the dagger against Ganguly and become Caesar's assassins. Like the Roman senators, they are all honorable men. They will get their wish. Ganguly will go.

The views expressed above are solely those of the guest contributor and are carried as written, with only minor editing for grammar, to preserve the original voice. These contributed columns are solely personal opinion pieces and reflect only the feelings of the guest contributor. Their being published on does not amount to an endorsement by CricInfo's editorial staff of the opinions expressed.

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