The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Slang, bang, Sourav

Calcutta, Aug. 12: Sourav Ganguly’s return as the Team India captain (for Zimbabwe), today, was preceded by a slanging match between the one-time openers on the senior selection committee ' east’s Pranab Roy and V.B. Chandrasekhar of south.

The tour of Zimbabwe, which begins later this month, features a tri-series (New Zealand being the third team) and two Tests.

That Sourav is going to be back as captain was reported by The Telegraph, from Colombo, on Tuesday itself.

According to well-placed sources in Mumbai, where the five-member selection committee met for around 100 minutes late in the afternoon, Chandrasekhar wanted Rahul Dravid retained and challenged the arguments put forward by Roy.

Dravid captained India in the recent tri-series, in Sri Lanka, as there was uncertainty over Sourav’s availability owing to a six-ODI ban. Eventually, the punishment got reduced and Sourav played the last three matches there under Dravid.

Roy, one learns, received “complete support” from the two Sharmas ' north’s Yashpal and Gopal of central.

Chief selector Kiran More (west) gave Roy and Chandrasekhar “freedom” to express their views and, then, advocated that the captaincy be handed back to Sourav as the “majority” favoured just that.

The captaincy issue wasn’t put to vote, or else Chandrasekhar would have formally dissented.

Realising he was in a losing battle, Chandrasekhar even floated the (absurd and team spirit-threatening) idea of two captains: Sourav for the ODIs, Dravid in Tests.

It fell on Roy to knock that for a six.

Roy highlighted Sourav’s record as captain (he’s the most successful in Tests, with a 50-plus win percentage in ODIs) and the passion he brings to the job, while Chandrasekhar argued Dravid shouldn’t be removed after only one outing with independent charge.

Given that Chandrasekhar is Tamil Nadu’s nominee, one isn’t sure whether he fought out of conviction or opposed Sourav because he’s from Jagmohan Dalmiya’s Bengal.

In intra-Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) politics, Tamil Nadu and Bengal are at opposite ends.

Whatever, Sourav has to regain consistency with the bat ' and in both forms. Indeed, going by Chandrasekhar’s vehement opposition, he can’t take anything for granted.

It’s too early, then, to say whether Sourav’s second innings in the hottest seat after the Prime Minister’s will continue till the 2007 World Cup.

Significantly, coach Greg Chappell (who “briefed” BCCI secretary S.K. Nair and More before the selection meeting) maintained he was “neutral” on the captaincy issue.

However, Chappell probably also did say he was “happy” with Dravid in Sri Lanka. That was his maiden assignment.

Sourav, captain for over five years till the International Cricket Council-imposed ban in April, began the day keeping “fingers crossed.”

Much later, on learning of his appointment (from the TV, incidentally), he said: “I’m happy' It feels good, but I’m thinking about the team and not myself'.”

Sourav added: “We need to improve and I’m looking forward to a partnership with Greg and, of course, Rahul.”

Asked whether he had plans to celebrate, Sourav replied: “I’d rather wait for us to win the tri-series and the Tests'”

Sourav leaves for Mumbai in the morning to be present when the tri-series and Test squads are picked in the afternoon. Tomorrow’s selection, by the way, is going to be this committee’s last.

It’s to be seen whether all five selectors retain their own berths after next month’s AGM.

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