The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Board keeps Sourav on bench

New Delhi, April 15: The thrashing in Kanpur notwithstanding, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has chosen not to call up regular captain Sourav Ganguly for the sixth and final ODI against Pakistan.

This hasn't come as the proverbial bolt from the blue though: it was expected after the BCCI decided not to 'disturb' the Kanpur-XV despite the International Cricket Council (ICC) clearing Sourav to play till his appeal gets disposed of.

Appeals commissioner Michael Beloff, by the way, hasn't yet indicated exactly how he intends going about his job. He isn't obliged to hear Sourav.

Sourav, it may be recalled, got an unprecedented six-match ban from Chris Broad on Tuesday. The match referee crucified him for India being three overs short in that cliffhanger in Motera.

In keeping with its mishandling, the BCCI offered no explanation when it issued a short media release, around 8 pm today, stating the squad for Sunday's match here wouldn't see a change.

That was decided after two sittings featuring president Ranbir Singh Mahendra, predecessor Jagmohan Dalmiya, seniormost vice-president Kamal Morarka and secretary S.K. Nair.

The first round of discussions, at the DDCA's Inswinger Bar, also saw the participation of treasurer Jyoti Bajpai and joint secretary Goutam Das Gupta. Sitting No. 2 was in a Taj Palace conference room.

Privately, one of those party to the discussions told The Telegraph: 'Actually, we've kept Sourav's interests in mind. Pakistan's morale is now sky-high and he would have been under greater pressure ' as batsman and even as captain.'

Few are going to buy that. In any case, when Sourav didn't ask to be protected, why should the BCCI have been so concerned' That, too, after letting him down by not provisionally selecting him for Kanpur and New Delhi.

The five selectors were neither guided, otherwise they wouldn't have named Rahul Dravid captain and Virender Sehwag vice-captain, nor did they themselves weigh the implications of dropping Sourav like a hot potato.

But, then, nothing better can be expected from a set-up where professionalism is unheard of.

Sourav wasn't available for comment till late tonight. Last evening, however, he insisted: 'I'm not mentally shattered.... If asked to, I'll head to New Delhi by the first flight....'

Incidentally, Mahendra admitted Sourav could have been retained with a proviso that he would be ineligible to play if he either didn't appeal the ban or the ICC took time in putting his ban 'on appeal'.

Speaking exclusively, he said: 'Yes, that arrangement was possible.... Lekin woh nahin hua and we have to move forward. What has been done can't be undone....'

To an extent, Mahendra has a point. Only, instead of helping Sourav, the BCCI has probably dented his self-belief with one big show of no-confidence.

India's most successful captain deserves better.

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