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Bit of a shame for the game


Cricket often dominates the front pages of newspapers in India, but sadly for the wrong reasons of late. The Sourav Ganguly-Greg Chappell run-in has been a bit of a shame for the game in general and Indian cricket in particular. Both the coach and the captain are equally to blame for the current impasse because their conduct has been surprising and neither can be accused of being discreet and measured in their words and reactions.

The review committee that meets on Tuesday might try to work out a compromise, but I think that would be unrealistic. The spat has been too ugly, too public and too bitter, and therefore one of the two gentlemen at the helm of Indian cricket will have to leave. If the two are made to continue on the basis of an uneasy truce, they will take Indian cricket further down the road to disaster since the members of the team will be forced to side with either one or the other. In fact, signs of this polarisation are already emerging.

I remember being in India shortly before the Indian coach was being selected, and I was asked which candidate I would back. I had said Tom Moody at the time, but most people forget that I had added that Greg was not a bad option either. Greg has it in him to be a good mentor, and he also possesses a fine analytical cricket brain. Ironically, Sourav himself has been a beneficiary of Greg's immense knowledge of the game. Unfortunately, relations have only gone from bad to worse since then.

What generally happens in cricket is that when a coach and captain are appointed, they are made to sit together and decide the extent of power and control each of them will have in the team. A free, frank discussion between Sourav and Greg shortly after the latter was appointed would have helped both parties start off on a clean slate. I don't know whether that happened, but seeing the current finger-pointing it's unlikely such an exercise was undertaken. Much of all this is related to the trough that Sourav has been in for the last season. He has been in poor form of late and there are regular calls for his omission from the team. Apparently Greg told Sourav that each player has to move on at some time, but finally it's for the player to decide when.

Served well

If Sourav is considering retirement, he must first be honest to himself, and then he should consult those who know him best, perhaps his wife. I went out of the game in the nicest possible way, but I would still say that it is entirely Sourav's decision when he wants to give up the game. Sourav has served Indian cricket well, and deserves a fond farewell, and I hope he gets it.

Sports fans are fickle all over the world, and while Sourav's form is constantly a talking point, the public was happy to have him back at the helm, only because Rahul Dravid lost the final of a tri-series in Colombo. This is why decision-makers should guard against being swayed by public opinion. If India's selectors have a vision for 2007, then they have to take some tough decisions regarding players who they feel won't last the distance. Their counterparts in Australia made that difficult call when they decided to leave Matthew Hayden out of the one-day team.

Greg's brief is to produce a team that can have a realistic chance of winning the 2007 World Cup. It's part of his job to inculcate discipline and high standards of fitness. It is also his job to keep the board informed about the status of some players. Greg's integrity is above board and he has the best interests of Indian cricket in mind. Significantly, he has a long-term contract with the board, so it's unlikely that he will be shown the door.

There is never a dull moment in Indian cricket, but while the media are having plenty of fun with this soap opera situation, sanity must prevail soon. I hope the authorities in India don't pussyfoot around the problem because it needs firm handling, and tough decisions will need to be made.

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