Sir — Sourav Ganguly was handed Team India’s captaincy at a time when it was reeling under the match-fixing scandal in 2000. He slowly took the team to great heights — from the victory in the Natwest trophy in England, the Champions trophy in 2002, to the finals of World Cup 2003, and the test series draw against Australia in Australia. During all this, however, Ganguly the batsman was getting over-shadowed by Ganguly the skipper. As captain, he is without a parallel in the side even today, but his days of batting glory may be well and truly over. Captaincy is no mean job, and Rahul Dravid will have learnt this to his cost by now. Nobody can question Dravid’s credentials as a batsman. In fact, the pressure of captaincy does not seem to have affected his batting. But, as a captain, he seems all at sea after a few losses in South Africa. But great players often do not make great leaders. But there are some who are simply born to lead. The Nawab of Pataudi, Kapil Dev and Sourav Ganguly fall in this category.
Subhasish Das, Calcutta
Sir — With the selection of Sourav Ganguly for the test series in South Africa, the wheel has come full circle for the former Indian captain. The failure of the “youth brigade” has forced the selectors to look towards the more experienced players. The recall of Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan for the one-day series, and now Ganguly for the tests are clear indications of this new-found emphasis on experience over youth. So far, Kumble and Zaheer Khan have justified their selection. One hopes that Ganguly, too, will.
Ambar Mallick, Calcutta
Sir — While most cricket fans in West Bengal might feel euphoric, the recall of Sourav Ganguly to the Indian test team is undoubtedly an ominous sign for true cricket-lovers for more reasons than one (“Past calls”, Dec 1). As many experts, including Kapil Dev and Wasim Akram, had suggested, Ganguly should have opted for an honorable retirement from cricket at least two years before he was unceremoniously dropped from the side. One should also remember that the sole reason for Ganguly’s return is the unexpected batting debacle in South Africa. There is little doubt that if batsmen like Suresh Raina and Mohammed Kaif were playing well, Ganguly’s name would have been nowhere in the reckoning. There is little reason to think that this ageing ex-captain can deliver the goods for India at this juncture. Although he remains the most successful Indian captain, his performance with the bat was pitiable in the last few series that he played.
Ganguly is unlikely to regain the captaincy of the team, nor a place in the one-day squad (since there is hardly any more one-day cricket left before the World Cup for Ganguly to defend his case in the shorter version of the game). Everything considered, there can be no doubt that Ganguly’s selection at this stage is “backward-looking”. By choosing a batsman who is past his prime, the Indian selectors have lost an opportunity to give much-needed international exposure to one of the many promising youngsters waiting in the wings. On the other hand, if Ganguly fails once again (which is likely, given his well-known weakness against the bouncing ball) even after getting this lucky break, he will go down in Indian cricketing history as someone who never knew when to call it quits.
Kunal Saha, Columbus, US
Sir — “Ganguly back in team, V.V.S. Laxman vice-captain” (Nov 30) has given the people of Bengal as well as the country a reason to rejoice. Like the tale of Robert Bruce, Ganguly’s nine-month ordeal also teaches us never to give up and to keep trying. Ganguly’s recall also affirms our faith that the new dispensation of selectors has the interest of Team India in mind. Let us hope now that the return of Dada will improve the performance of the Indian team in South Africa.
Lubna Salim, Calcutta
Sir — In what promises to be one of the most interesting decisions of the Indian selection committee, Sourav Ganguly has been recalled to the test squad. Although he has done some pretty laughable things in the interim period — from sending anti-Dalmiya emails on the eve of the CAB elections to appearing in a pathetic Pepsi ad — he never did give up. With the Rainas and Mongias coming up dreadfully short, his perseverance has been rewarded with a recall. The dynamics of his relationship with Greg Chappell will definitely be tested. Ganguly would also do well to measure the merits and demerits of his return. Playing test cricket in South Africa has never been his forte, a 73 during his first tour in 1996 being the highest point. While Ganguly may deny the effect of his years on his footwork and reflexes, he has never been at home on bouncy pitches and is pathetic against the short ball. Those who remember him batting in the two tests during India’s last tour to South Africa in 2001 will remember the terrible time he had. Walking, at the age of 34, into the lion’s den, with grassy wickets and a quality bowling attack is not the ideal comeback script for the left-hander. A failure here would be akin to his swansong. He may have made a gritty 43 in Mohali against Punjab recently, but Wanderers is a tad different from Mohali, and Pollock, Ntini and Co. far more fearsome from the Punjab pace attack. One can only hope that the 10-month hiatus has given him time to work on his shortcomings.
Arunabha Sengupta, Calcutta