The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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After bomb scare, Sourav scramble

New Delhi, Dec. 16: Cricket board chief Sharad Pawar has assured Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee that he hoped to do “justice” to Sourav Ganguly when the team is picked for the tour of Pakistan.

It was clear today, however, that a purely cricketing matter ' though of great emotional content ' had fallen almost irretrievably into the hands of politicians.

After the Speaker announced in the Lok Sabha that he would allow a discussion on Sourav’s exclusion, Pawar warned of the danger of raising such issues in Parliament.

“If people start using Parliament to say who should be in the Indian cricket team, it would cause irreparable damage to cricket,” he said in Mumbai.

Yesterday morning, the board president had called up Chatterjee to say he could not give an assurance about Sourav’s inclusion in the Ahmedabad Test. But he “hoped to be able to do justice to him” on the Pakistan tour.

The call came a day after the Speaker, a keen cricket follower, conveyed his disappointment to a group of ministers, including Praful Patel, a close Pawar aide.

Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said in Calcutta he too had spoken to the board president. “I told him, nobody can accept such a decision. Let us see what happens now.”

In his hour of crisis, political parties have united behind Sourav, a daunting prospect for chief selector Kiran More and his colleagues who made the decision along with coach Greg Chappell and captain Rahul Dravid.

They must also bear in mind that when Bengal protests, it does not take long to call a bandh. It is on the agenda of a little-known outfit, called the Maidan Sports Welfare Association.

In Parliament, after a day’s harrowing experience caused by a bomb scare, bat and ball ' and not the morning’s possible threat to their lives ' was on the minds of MPs.

Mohan Singh, of the Samajwadi Party, made an impassioned plea for discussing Sourav’s removal next week.

The Speaker replied: “Hoga, hoga (the discussion will take place). Next week hoga. We shall allow a discussion on sports.”

The Samajwadi member charged the board with politicising sports. “How can they drop a player like Ganguly' This will impair the mental strength of the players. It has offended lovers of cricket.”

Defence minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters: “I think we should not play politics in cricket or any kind of game. He is a good player, he should find his place in the Indian team.”

Faced with this outpouring of wounded emotions, Pawar may now have little choice but to put Sourav on the plane to Pakistan.

What effect all this might have on the former captain, who kept to himself for the second day today, is hard to predict.

How his return to the team, if and when that happens, will be taken by Chappell, who obviously does not want him, is not so difficult to fathom. Also to be borne in mind is the possible reaction of his teammates.

If Pawar does include him in the side, there is bound to be talk of interference in selection. Raj Singh Dungarpur, a Pawar confidant, criticised the board president for the statement yesterday that he was going to seek an explanation from the selectors.

“Obviously and unfortunately, it is (a bad precedent). I am surprised by the statement from a man of his stature and experience,” he said.

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