Friday, October 17, 2008

Sourav Ganguly: Victim of a revenge cult -

Unjustified criticism is a popular media pastime in most parts of the world. Knock over the hero image and belittle his or her achievements by humiliating their performances.

The more public it is the better for those would-be assassins who, for the sake of stirring controversy have the comfort of their offices or studios in which to sit and fire sniper-like vitriol at the intended victim.

It was in early December 2004 during the Kanpur Test that involved South Africa when NDTV asked me to become involved in a discussion on Sourav Ganguly, his perceived lack of form as well as leadership skills.

The way questions were posed brought the realisation that on the other side was a hit squad with an obvious grudge against Ganguly. It also made me wonder why I had been asked to take part in this show and in the firing line of Raj Singh Dungarpur, who came across as someone who didn't enjoy the Ganguly style at all.

Maybe because articles I had written much earlier, as well as those during the 2003-04 Australia tour for the Indian Express, had praised Dada and the way he had not backed off from a challenge against the Australians on that tour.

It has rarely ceased to surprise me that in the past fifty years or more, how players who have performed well for their country have been ridiculed by those who have not played a club game let alone a Ranji Trophy match or in a Test. Yet they sit and pontificate as though they have scored over 6,000 Test runs and taken more than 100 wickets.

There was also an awful feeling earlier this year in Sri Lanka that there were those media types who wanted Ganguly to fail. Want to point fingers and loudly say, "We told you... We told you... He is finished. Good... Good. Get rid of him now; forever."

Yet this was in a three-match Test series where most batsmen, not only Ganguly, fudged their lines against mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan.

In Port Elizabeth, before the start of the fractious second Test of India's 2001 tour of South Africa, and following the defeat in Bloemfontein after centuries by Sachin Tendulkar and that on debut by Virender Sehwag, I asked Ganguly about the enraged reaction in India to that particular defeat.

He was precise in his comments by saying he did not worry what his critics felt, or would say, or likely to say as they would not change their criticism even if India had won that first Test.

As with the NDTV episode with Dungapur, you felt they want him to fail, so that they could get out their rusty sabres and use his back as their personal dart board.

Forgotten is how months earlier he had defied a rampant Australian attack by scoring 144 in the first Test in Brisbane: walking out to bat with the top-order a mess at 62-3, Tendulkar lbw to Jason Gillespie for a duck, and later 127-4. But India still managed a first innings lead because of his century.

Also forgotten is how he led India to a World Cup final in South Africa when there are those on the subcontinent who wanted India to win but Ganguly to fail. The poison from that defeat in the final, it seems, still flows as swiftly as the Hooghly River.

What has been amusing in this latest Ganguly episode is how newspapers run interviews on half-baked supposed comments and offer them as being genuine. Anyone who stooped to this level to sell papers should be asked to account for his honesty. In another country, his job might be on the line.

All Dada can do here is refute the allegations that he made such comments while the reporter now has a credibility problem. What is known is that he has long been the fall guy when it comes to India's middle-order failures and you don't need the former captain to tell you that. It has been a known fact for a long time.

Now joining those snipers is some typically bad-mouthing Aussie who is doing his own ludicrous pantomime act.

To suggest that Ganguly had indulged in time wasting is an excuse for ignorance of the laws. The Channel Nine loud mouth overlooked that there were no overs lost, despite the interruptions. So why the fuss?

That the target was an impossible one is overlooked by such media bullies who snarl and snap when they can't get their way and attempt caricature humour to make a non-valid point.
How many Aussies in the past have also been involved in such a tactic to prevent defeat? Memories of a Perth Test against New Zealand in December 2001 resurface. Apart from several appalling umpiring decisions, they were calling for gloves and pads and other time-wasting tactic they could conjure.

The Kiwis didn't grumble, but you knew they weren't too happy either. There was Aussie criticism of Steven Fleming's plus 300-minute long century; no praise either for Daniel Vettori and his six wickets in the first innings that helped the Kiwis a good first innings lead. No honesty among thieves.

What needs to be appreciated here is that there is far, far more to Ganguly's style of play than statistical jargon and metaphorical branding.

He needs neither a register of meaningless allegories nor statistical lists that categorise who he is and from where he comes.

Yet for some peculiar reason, universally the Indian media, always seeking new cult heroes outside the outlandish tinsel confines of Bollywood, have this arcane obsession to indulge in such inane metaphors and clichés when discussing a man whose individual stylish left-hand batsmanship as well as leadership showed that Indians can take on the bullies from Down Under and elsewhere.

Those so fond of rehashing the meaningless 'Lord Snooty' as a way to unjustly caricature and pillory the man, or Prince of Calcutta to explain his elegant strokeplay, fail to understand his innate competitive drive.

There have been times when watching him place a cover drive suggests the soft growl of a Bengal tiger on the prowl. Here there is the impression of his sensing the mood of the bowler and by scoring a boundary in such a way it evokes an instinctive habit of his stalking of the bowler, seeking to hunt down the next ball as well.

There is a finesse about the Ganguly cover drive that hints how its execution is unique; it has nothing to do with textbook technique but his style of adventurism. He has had that trendy manner since before he was selected 16 years ago and sent to Australia.

Yet as he is about to say adieu to a Test career, Ganguly deserves fresh descriptions and a new landscape as a tribute to his skills and leadership: not old clichés or tired metaphors that have long failed to describe his style of game or intense personality.

There was agony in Australia in 1991-92 where he was largely misunderstood by a self-indulgent team management system; then a heroic debut century at Lord's a little more than four years later. These are all part of the often haphazard journey.

It is one though that deserves a far better epithet than it is receiving from a malevolent sniping media.

No comments: