Chandigarh: Sourav Ganguly is India’s most successful Test captain, but Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi is regarded by many as having been our finest. So, when he talks, the words carry more weight than if the same things were said by somebody else.
In town to watch the second India-England Test in neighbouring Mohali, Pataudi spoke to The Telegraph on Thursday evening. Given the controversy surrounding Sourav, one had to ask him for a comment.
“It’s for the selectors to decide whether Sourav fits into the team or not, but the entire affair hasn’t been handled well... Before dropping him for the first time (late last year), the selectors should have conveyed their intentions and given Sourav the opportunity to exit gracefully... That wasn’t done.
“Sadly, whatever the field, Indians just aren’t good at hiring and firing... The Sourav issue needed to be dealt with finesse, instead of so much being written and said... Don’t forget he captained for over five years and deserved respect,” Pataudi pointed out.
He added: “Sourav has the right to fight his way back, but must not expect sympathy from the selectors and whoever else... I suppose he still has cricket left, but has to take stock of the pressure he’s going through... Of course, one is expected to perform in the most demanding of situations...”
In Pataudi’s view, current Team India captain Rahul Dravid is “doing fine.”
He didn’t dwell at length on coach Greg Chappell, but did say “I don’t have a problem with his shuffling of the batting order, but he should give a closer look to our Test attack... That, to me, is an area of concern and needs to be quickly addressed...”
Asked whether he endorsed the fielding of five specialist bowlers (as has been done in Mohali), Pataudi replied: “With (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni batting so well, why not' In principle, five ought to be picked, but the circumstances have to be taken into account.”
It was over five years ago, in Nagpur (versus Zimbabwe), that India last played five specialist bowlers ' Jawagal Srinath, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Sunil Joshi and Sarandeep Singh ' at home.
Incidentally, the PCA Stadium (Mohali) is one of the few venues worldwide where Pataudi can be spotted during a Test or ODI. “Why' Because it’s a lovely stadium and everything is run so smoothly,” he signed off, grinning.
The hospitality in these parts is legendary, too.
Footnote: Sourav has decided against coming here to watch the remainder of the Mohali Test. “He didn’t speak to me, but conveyed his regrets through (Board vice-president) Lalit Modi,” PCA supremo Inderjit Singh Bindra, who’d extended the invitation, informed late in the evening. Well, there could have been awkward moments.