Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Gang’s Politburo and the once-Big Four

Interesting stuff here on Amit Varma’s India Uncut about the clique of journalists with unhindered access to Sourav Ganguly, and how they target V V S Laxman to deflect attention off Ganguly’s failures. If this is true, it makes for another interesting insight into how sports media works. During my chat with Amit last week, he suggested that Ganguly’s time was up and that Dravid-as-captain would bear watching. I’m not too sure about that, having long been a fan of Ganguly’s assertiveness as a leader (along with Mark Taylor, he’s the only captain I’ve ever really noticed as a captain). But Amit’s case is that Dada’s batting has declined to the point where the underconfidence might now be affecting his captaincy (an interesting inversion of captaincy affecting batting, which is the traditional malaise).

About Dravid: it’s a matter of record that his performance as a batsman in the Tests he’s captained has been very poor (5 matches, 138 runs, average 17.25 with a top score of 33 - despite the fact that all these matches have been in his "golden form" period of the past three years). But guess one can only know for sure when he’s been given a long stint in the job.

P.S. Isn’t it strange how quickly things change? Just a couple of years ago we were hearing all sorts of things about India’s Big Four and how they would form the nucleus of the middle order for several years to come. Now, on current form, Ganguly and Laxman are completely out of things (though the latter is always capable of coming good in spectacular fashion). Sehwag has become, and this was completely unforeseen, India’s second-best Test batsman (behind Dravid). Tendulkar - for all the ridiculous amounts of vitriol poured on him - is still easily the third-best, even when struggling with injuries/mental uncertainty. And then - to use a gloriously certain cricketing cliche - there’s daylight. To paraphrase David Mitchell, "What wouldn’t Indian cricket supporters give now for a never-changing map of the ever-constant ineffable?"

8 comments:

  1. Curiously enough, Fleming seems to be in similar strife as Ganguly.

    I fear that the 2003 tour of Australia was the zenith, as far as the batting exploits of the Fab Four go. I don't know if collectively, they will ever have 4 better "batting" months than that Dec-Apr stretch.

    The one day series against Pak might be key, for Saurav. He has always seemed surer at the crease in the ODIs, so if he does well with the bat there, it will help. If he continues to be abysmal however...

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  2. I don't care much for these captaincy-affects-batting and batting-affects-captaincy deals, but what I do know is that there's very little good about this Indian side outside of Ganguly's captaincy. It's not multi-dimensional, but that's not a huge vice. Steve Waugh was uni-dimensional, as was Mark Taylor. as for his batting, like he keeps saying himself, I think we keep missing the fact that he has scored a phenomenal number of runs in recent times without scoring the centuries that would catch the eye.

    The Big-Four factor, though, is a more interesting subject. It's one that I have been meaning to blog on, but haven't been able to because I haven't been able to put my finger on a point.

    Don't know much about Amit, but I think he is just jumping the gun a bit here.

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  3. I'm mindfucked! There's a lack of perspective or a selective memory operating here, which is completely scary.

    Last year SCG averaged 60 plus while VVS was 75 -ish. This year, SCG is at 36 while VVS is around 21.
    (A difference of 15 runs/ innings does make it a little easier to "deflect attention" in SCG Vs VVS.)

    But- both are averaging over 45 in the last two seasons. And, as a fan, I'd take that from no:5 and no:6 .

    That includes tests in Australia and Pakistan and against Australia and Pakistan here. Neither fattened up much in Bangladesh, which was about the only "easy" series.

    Both have scored close (*or more, I haven't checked) than 1000 in their last 15 tests. Sure they look like arthritic camels but they usually hold their catches, which counts for a lot in tests.

    Both also look like idiots when they get out - they always have - how does that make a difference?

    Neither has technique worth toffee - (neither does Sehwag)- but they do get runs at acceptable overall rates and averages and when they do get going, both are match-winners.

    If the argument is that Yuvraj and Kaif would be better middle-order bats and in the field---

    Well, Kaif has a career average of 25 odd in some 7-8 tests and Yuvraj has 30-odd in 4. On their records, they don't deserve to replace SCG and VVS in the test side despite their far superior skills in the field.

    (Both also look like idiots when they get out - Yujraj against Kaneria in particular or against the swinging ball in general is entertainment of a high order.)

    So, are you suggesting that Ambati Rayudu and Robin Uttapa be called in to replace SCG and VVSL? Perhaps.

    India doesn't have a Michael Clarke clone waiting in the wings so, sad as it may seem, SCG and VVS get in simply on the basis of being the best no: 5 and 6 available at the moment.


    (DD)

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  4. DD: point graciously taken. Throughout my career as a cricket-obsesser, I've complained about other people's selective memory/lack of perspective (of course, I've mainly done it in the context of the unfair Tendulkar-bashing) so I was chastened to read your comment.
    Also, personally I'm a fan (in very different ways) of both SCG and VVS so the figures you quote are heartening.

    Black Muddy: as you know, India winning/losing isn't a big issue with me but I've always admired Ganguly's in-your-face-ness as a captain. Still, I agree with Amit to the extent that he has seemed underconfident in recent months - like the relentless criticism about batting form is finally getting to him big-time. If that does affect his confidence as a captain as well (and if that coincides with Dravid and/or Sehwag losing form anytime soon), then there could be a serious problem.

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  5. I agree with DD. I too looked up some facts on Cricinfo(not as exhaustively as DD :-)) but SCG's not doing half as badly as the press is saying. He's missed out on big scores since Brisbane, but he hass got enough on the board. His captaincy is under-rated by many, and he is (with John Wright) responsible for moulding this side into the unit it is today.But he does need a big knock soon to get people off his back.

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  6. People mention Brisbane most often, but I think his innings at Melbourne was just as important.
    Admittedly, we lost that Test, but Ganguly pushed himself ahead of Sachin in that one and along with Dravid,put on..150? or osmething equally significant. And while the two of them were there, it looked like India might actually save the Test. He finished with 70 odd, but it was, to use a cliche, a captain's knock. Captain's knocks don't always have to come in victories.
    Perhaps the recent batting exploits of Sehwag, Dravid and even Tendulkar, are placing even more pressure on Ganguly/Laxman to score?
    Personally, I've always felt that he is a brilliant ODI batsman, but a less confident Test match player. So I would think that runs in the former will help him bat better in the latter. We are playing a lot of odi cricket in the coming months and that's his best chance to get back on track.
    Laxman's case is curiouser. He is almost certainly not going to be playing a lot of ODIs any more, now that we've realized the wisdom of having a regular 'keeper. So increasingly, all he has are Tests. Don't know if that puts an additional burden on him.

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  7. People mention Brisbane most often, but I think his innings at Melbourne was just as important.
    Admittedly, we lost that Test, but Ganguly pushed himself ahead of Sachin in that one and along with Dravid,put on..150? or osmething equally significant. And while the two of them were there, it looked like India might actually save the Test. He finished with 70 odd, but it was, to use a cliche, a captain's knock. Captain's knocks don't always have to come in victories.
    Perhaps the recent batting exploits of Sehwag, Dravid and even Tendulkar, are placing even more pressure on Ganguly/Laxman to score?
    Personally, I've always felt that he is a brilliant ODI batsman, but a less confident Test match player. So I would think that runs in the former will help him bat better in the latter. We are playing a lot of odi cricket in the coming months and that's his best chance to get back on track.
    Laxman's case is curiouser. He is almost certainly not going to be playing a lot of ODIs any more, now that we've realized the wisdom of having a regular 'keeper. So increasingly, all he has are Tests. Don't know if that puts an additional burden on him.

    ReplyDelete
  8. People mention Brisbane most often, but I think his innings at Melbourne was just as important.
    Admittedly, we lost that Test, but Ganguly pushed himself ahead of Sachin in that one and along with Dravid,put on..150? or osmething equally significant. And while the two of them were there, it looked like India might actually save the Test. He finished with 70 odd, but it was, to use a cliche, a captain's knock. Captain's knocks don't always have to come in victories.
    Perhaps the recent batting exploits of Sehwag, Dravid and even Tendulkar, are placing even more pressure on Ganguly/Laxman to score?
    Personally, I've always felt that he is a brilliant ODI batsman, but a less confident Test match player. So I would think that runs in the former will help him bat better in the latter. We are playing a lot of odi cricket in the coming months and that's his best chance to get back on track. In an ideal world though, I would play Kaif ahead of Ganguly. Kaif hasn't played enough tests for his average to be counted against him, and he was possibly our best middle order bat against Australia a few months ago.
    Laxman's case is curiouser. He is almost certainly not going to be playing a lot of ODIs any more, now that we've realized the wisdom of having a regular 'keeper. So increasingly, all he has are Tests. Don't know if that puts an additional burden on him.

    ReplyDelete