| Sourav Ganguly at home on Saturday. Picture by Gautam Bose
Mumbai, Dec. 24: Sourav Ganguly isn’t just back, but has returned as a specialist middle-order batsman and not an allrounder. Reason enough for the former Team India captain to launch into a double celebration.
Sourav isn’t going to forget this Christmas-eve in a hurry: The day also saw Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Sharad Pawar rubbish reports that he hadn’t been gelling with teammates and wouldn’t cooperate in the dressing room.
Pawar’s one-on-one yesterday with the seniormost pro, Sachin Tendulkar, seems to have convinced him that the reports were motivated.
Even if Pawar consciously didn’t send a signal to Kiran More and his colleagues, there’s talk that a key strategist of his group overnight put in a word or two in the “right quarters” to ensure there was no Act II in the “injustice” drama.
Technically, Sourav’s recall was unanimous (because all five selectors signed the team list), but there was a big debate and had a vote been taken, he would have made it 3-2. Sourav is bound to be grateful to successor Rahul Dravid for backing him.
Perhaps, Dravid isn’t aware, but there was a phase in the early days of Sourav’s captaincy when he had to convince the selectors to give our most (technically) accomplished batsman an extended run in ODIs.
Today, it’s quits. Nobody owes anybody a favour and Sourav has to perform.
Sources said it’s significant only the squad for the three-Test series has been picked. “Sourav hasn’t played in the last 12 ODIs, but runs will bring him into contention for a one-day berth. It’s for him to either rebuild his career or prepare for a fade-out,” a source said.
The Tests are between January 13 and February 2, with the five ODIs scheduled from February 6-18. Instead of January 6, the team is to leave for Pakistan a day earlier.
More wasn’t convincing when he faced the media after the two-hour selection meeting, at the Mumbai Cricket Association HQ, and kept repeating Sourav’s experience (86 Tests, 5,150 runs at an average of 40-plus) influenced the committee to take him and drop Mohammed Kaif.
Surely, the selectors must have known experience would be required on what’s going to be a demanding tour when omitting Sourav after Kotla. In More’s opinion, he was dropped because he didn’t fit into the “best combination” for the Motera Test.
For Sourav to fit into the “best combination” for the first Test in Lahore, a non-regular opener will have to partner vice-captain Virender Sehwag.
While Sourav has been brought back after one Test, quick Zaheer Khan got recalled after being overlooked for every engagement since the tour of Zimbabwe. That he stood a chance and could replace Murali Kartik had been reported by this paper.
Coach Greg Chappell had reservations about Zaheer’s work ethic and it’s possible he spoke about that during the 20-minute discussion specific to the left-armer.
The biggest comeback has been Parthiv Patel’s, out in the cold for 14 months, ironically weeks after being offered a central contract. He has been selected as the 16th player.
Keep Gautam Gambhir aside and the selectors couldn’t have picked a better squad.
Footnote: A staunch believer in destiny, Sourav slept well last night. This morning, though, he headed to a buddy’s house. He returned (“after buying Santas for Sana”) and, late at night, was preparing (“hopefully, I can”) to go out for coffee with wife Dona.