Faisalabad, Jan. 21: Mohammed Javed Iqbal, who mans the car rental counter at the Serena, was crestfallen this evening. Some 24 hours ago, though, he’d been upbeat on spotting Sourav Ganguly. Iqbal didn’t have a camera, but getting an autograph was easier than confirming bookings with the hotel at 100 per cent occupancy.
“Dukh hua hai... Sourav ko drop kiya gaya... Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav are my heroes and I was arranging a complimentary to at least watch them bat... Now, I’m not sure of going to the ground,” Iqbal pointed out dejectedly.
He wasn’t convinced that a horses-for-courses policy (for the second Test) had kept Sourav among the Parthiv Patels.
Yet, bottomline is that with captain Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell opting for five specialist bowlers, the former captain has to make the best of a poor bargain. Incidentally, even with five, Team India allowed Pakistan to reach a terms-dictating 379 for four at stumps on the opening day.
Ideally, the five specialist bowlers (a rare combination) ought to have fired out the hosts and given India the chance to force a 1-0 lead before Karachi. But, then, nothing came of the “positive statement” from the thinktank.
“I’ve got to put this behind me... I’ve got no choice but to accept I’ve been dropped... I’ll, of course, be doing everything expected of somebody in the squad,” Sourav told The Telegraph on returning to the Serena.
Whatever, not making the XI (despite being in the squad) for the first time since the Georgetown Test in April 1997, can’t be easy to handle. Emotionally, it should help that wife Dona and young Sana are with him.
Dravid is the one who informed Sourav ' after everybody reached the Iqbal Stadium ' he wouldn’t be playing. Later, Chappell (who was seen interacting with Sourav before play began) may have said something as well.
According to manager Raj Singh Dungarpur, Sourav took the decision “very well” and he himself had a long chat with him. “Look, Sourav’s a nice boy... I accept having, in the past, spoken against him, but he never reacted... Knowing how he would be feeling within, I conveyed he would be our man when we needed a sixth batsman.'”
Acknowledging that leaving out Sourav had been “very difficult”, Dravid added: “To win a Test, we need 20 wickets and, for that, five specialist bowlers... A tough decision had to be made and Sourav’s unlucky to miss out.”
The final Test is in Karachi and it’s to be seen whether the traditional four-bowlers-only strategy is fallen back on. Obviously, much is going to depend on the outcome here. Having been dropped without getting a hit in the first Test (Lahore), Sourav must be prepared for more setbacks.
What’s not in doubt is that Yuvraj Singh’s stock is on the upswing and he won’t be sidelined to accommodate Sourav. Even if he doesn’t score, Yuvraj can effect a brilliant run out or bring off a Jonty Rhodes-like catch. That’s a big plus.
While the one-time mentor is in limbo, the protege is an absolute certainty for any Team India XI.