The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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It’s that sinking feeling

Sydney, Oct. 13: Unless Sourav Ganguly makes the biggest comeback of his career ' even bigger, perhaps, than the one which ended a nearly five-year exile in the summer of 1996 ' his last appearance in India colours may well have been in the Harare Test.

The captaincy, in any case, has gone with the senior national selectors departing from tradition and giving Rahul Dravid the top job for two (ODI) series ' both at home, and back-to-back ' versus Sri Lanka (from October 25-November 12) and South Africa (from November 16).

Board of Control for Cricket in India secretary S.K. Nair said in Mohali the “unanimous” decision was on “grounds of cricket”. In other words, even if Sourav was available ' he isn’t till October 17, at least ' he would have been removed as captain.

As the five ODIs against South Africa begin just four days after the first home series of the season (featuring seven matches), chief selector Kiran More and his colleagues chose to signal continuity and not uncertainty.

More himself suggested Dravid be given a “fair run” instead of again being judged as a stand-in captain. Till the nearly 45-minute meeting got underway, Dravid’s appointment was to have been for the series versus Sri Lanka only.

Dravid, who refused to take calls either on his cellphones or at the official Super Series hotel here, has enough time to finally settle down. Going by this evening’s trend, one assumes he’s going to keep the job for the three Tests against Sri Lanka (December 2-22) as well.

Effectively, Sourav must (a) get over the early tennis elbow symptoms and (b) score big in domestic cricket. To start with, in the Duleep Trophy. For all the runs he has scored for India, Sourav has to again prove his worth.

At 33, India’s most successful Test captain isn’t getting any younger either.

Despite being dealt a telling blow, Sourav gave away little emotion when The Telegraph contacted him on a family member’s cellphone. “The selectors have done their job, I have no comment to make” is all that he said.

It has been a year of crushing lows: Poor form, a six-ODI ban which got reduced to four, a severely damaging face-off with coach Greg Chappell in Zimbabwe, the beginnings of a tennis elbow and, now, cut to pieces by the selectors’ sword.

Sourav’s return as captain, earlier this season, wasn’t decided on a vote. Yet, had it been so, it would have been close.

That he didn’t get runs in the tri-series in Zimbabwe, as well as the allegations made by Chappell in an e-mail, obviously hurt him immensely.

The board’s review panel did rubbish the allegations, but that didn’t make a difference. The damage was done.

“Frankly, the ball is in Sourav’s court.... He has to get runs and remind the selectors that he’s still around and can make an effective contribution. If he scores, absolutely nobody will be able to stop his return ' certainly not an e-mail. About the captaincy, though, I can’t say,” said someone influential in the board.

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