The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sourav has to take fresh guard with an open mind
Guest Column
Arun Lal

Iím extremely happy that Sourav Ganguly has finally made it to the Test squad in South Africa. There have not been many takers for Souravís chances, so his return to the side after a long gap highlights the story of tremendous determination, dynamism and self-belief.

Sourav has it in him to serve Indian cricket in his unique way, but mind you, this is going to be an extremely tough tour for him. I donít want to brood over whether he should have been in the ODI squad as well because we are already 0-3 down and, to me, this chapter is now over. The upcoming Test series, however, will hang like a double-edged sword over him. One should observe the situation from two contrasting perspectives.

This is a massive opportunity he has been aspiring for. If Sourav gets the basics right, shows the same determination which has marked his fightback, and is able to generate a degree of self-assurance and boldness, I firmly believe that there will be no looking back for him. On the flip side, however, lies the concern that if Sourav fails to deliver the goods, it may spell doom for him and his desire to play in the World Cup.

I canít help but mentioning a related line of thought here. Circumstances have played a big role in Souravís return to the side. Had India been 2-1 up in the ODI series, it wouldíve been difficult for him to make the cut. The likes of Sourav and Laxman are here because the juniors have failed. Still, the future is not about Sourav, Laxman or Sachin, it will be represented by the Rainas who are out of form now.

So, this is pressure with a capital P. But at the same time, make no mistake that Sourav is a champion and the champions are not defined by predictability. They can do wonders when these are least expected, they can seize the opportunity with an air of confidence and rise to the occasion to hit the Doubting Thomases for a six.

Time and again, Sourav has overcome such situations with his typical character, courage and confidence. Throughout his international career, he has this ability to surprise people. Being a great fan of him, I have been Ďsurprisedí by him many a time. He had surprised me in Australia when he put all doubts to rest with a majestic century in Brisbane. Who knows it wonít be the same this time around too'

Sourav is experienced enough take on his demons within and without. Still, I like to see him come to South Africa with an open, uncluttered mind. He has to take a fresh guard, with no confusion around, thinking that itís an opportunity Iíve been waiting for long and I must not let it go untried. He just needs to concentrate cent per cent on his game, away from those doubts he must have gone through in the past few months and let performance do all the talking.

Coming back to the ODI series, it is very difficult to explain the misery the South Africans are inflicting on us. I think itís a combination of lack of confidence among the seniors and inability to grab opportunities with both hands. I canít blame the juniors, because the onus is more on the senior team members and they have failed to deliver the goods when they were needed. Itís almost bizarre to let a team come back from 76 for six (in Cape Town) and win the match. Had we cashed in on these opportunities, the whole scenario would have changed.

I also donít believe in law of averages. To me, if you are competitive and confident enough, you will win. If you are not so, itís better to brace up for defeats and donít look for something else to make things fall in place.

Sourav is, thus, arriving at a crucial juncture in South Africa. And like in the past, the championís destiny is in his own hands.

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