(I wrote this about 6 months back. But the content is hot even today.Hence this post)
For last two weeks I have been thinking about a piece of news in the daily that every sports enthusiast would have noticed. Sourav Ganguly went for a duck in his first ball of Deodhar trophy final. This is only a day after his last ball of the match went for a winning six by a not so reputed batsman. Certainly things are not going well for the Bengal Tiger, who is trying to fight by all means to retain his lost place in the national squad. If the man who made a controversial entry to the Indian squad in 1996, became one of the finest players in the world of his time and most importantly changed the course of Indian team in less than a decade, it is mainly his uncompromising fighting attitude than any of the other skills that a cricketer of his level possesses.Once he believed that everything is under control if attitude is correct and succeeded in exemplifying it with his performance.But now the same kind of thought is not giving the desired result for him and his lack of skill is being continuously exposed over the last couple of years. He seems to have lost the magical synchronization between the skills and the attitude which is an asset for every performing individual.
Sourav has never been short of talent in the game of cricket. His flamboyant off-drives and elegant heaves over the sight screen are enough to prove his natural cricketing ability. No body can doubt the flair of the man who dominated the Sahara series with both the bat and the ball. But above all,his natural skills are embellished by his ruthless aggression and it is his aggression that completes the cricketer in Sourav. Never afraid to take on the bull by its horns,the Prince has the unique ability to convert his weaknesses in to performances. Otherwise how a batsman whose flaws in batting technique were exposed in his very first year in international cricket, went to make this much big in terms of runs and success?
Statisticians love Sourav because he has given them plenty of ODI runs to analyze on,almost at the rate of the little master . The record as the captain of the Indian team is also the part of the record books.He became the successful captain for the country by overtaking his predecessor Mohd.Azharuddin. It may be a strange coincidence that both the 'successful' captains had to leave the stage in not so graceful manner. The former had been banned from international cricket for life time,while the other had an ugly spat with the coach which eventually shown him the door with lots of questions left. Anyway these were not the kind of exits an average fan of the game would have envisaged for these two champion cricketers. Not only in the way they were out of the scene, there are lot of stunning similarities and contrasts between these two class players.
Both began their test careers against England and made tons in their first outing. Azhar extended this habit for another two more tests ,while Sourav could repeat that only once. However,not many cricketers made 100s in their first two tests. Both relied on their natural flair and hand-eye coordination to do the job than depending on the cricket manuals. It is pretty known fact that they were great entertainers when they get going and were able to raise the level of batsmanship to newer heights.They used lighter bats and not known for hitting the ball so hard,instead used their sweet timing skills against the pace of the ball.The duo had an inherent weakness in negotiating the moving ball and raising deliveries,in addition to their vulnerability against quality pace. A 145 K+ express delivery ,fuller or at correct length, might result in seeing the batsman walking back to the pavilion.Hooks ,pulls and sweeps were never their cup of tea. However Sourav never shied away from doing any of these shots when provoked, and with reasonable success too. One is a natural right hander whose favorite area is between square leg and mid-wicket ,while the other is a south paw who flourished between point and cover. The ball would touch the same boundary ropes when both were in crease.Most importantly, both had gone through many crests and troughs in their careers and they were always under pressure to prove a point or two, each time they wear the pads. When the talk of loss of form arises,Sourav never hesitated to open up to the media to defend himself ,while Azhar preferred to let his willow to do the talking.
On personal fronts,both are at two ends. The reticent,shy Azhar keeps the emotions to himself and stay calm and cool under most of the circumstances. On the other hand, Sourav is more vocal and dynamic.His emotional outbursts and nail-biting habits are already placed him in record books along with his achievements. Azhar's relation with the media was poor ,owing mainly to his poor articulation skills and the fact that he never really cared about the importance of media handling in this cricket crazy country. Sourav has always been media's pet and most of the times gave more than what media expected out of him.
As a fielder Azhar was more accomplished than his successor. He was undoubtedly one of the finest fielders that the game has ever produced. Few of his catches and throws have won matches for India ,in an era where fielding was not given the due importance. Even in his late thirties ,his fitness level was an example for the young players to follow. Sourav is known as a lazy chap in the field and definitely not a fitness freak.
Their captaincy streaks are also worth comparing. Both had been asked to lead the team ,when the Indian team was doing pretty badly. Their elevation to the helm happened as a surprise to many,since they were never tipped as captain- to- be-waiting either by the selectors or by the media. Their stints at the top caused lots of success to the team in both forms of the game. Azhar did not seem to be an aggressive captain,but his certain field placings and effective utilization of limited bowling resources earned him the image of a strategist. Sourav was a born leader.He was always clear about what he needed from his team. He was good at identifying talents and backing them at any cost. Azhar never showed such an interest as his thought was if someone is capable of playing for the country he would be picked up by himself.
Both of them were excellent fighters,though they expressed their fighting abilities in contrasting ways. Sourav never cared or feared of his weaknesses and tried to cover them up with his undaunting attitude. Azhar recognized and acknowledged his limitations and compensated heavily for them through his strong areas.The pair belongs to the category of players with an ability to bounce back when the odds are against them, which they have proved again and again. Not many cricketers would have received this much accolades and wraths from the media and the fans during different phases of their cricket life. At this critical juncture of his career,Sourav appears to be in a dilemma on how to respond to the signals from the selection committee. Are they setting the stage for Sourav to retire formally? The Media experts and fans tell that the time has come for Sourav to bid adieu so that he would not be humiliated further by the local players and selectors.Everybody expects him to do a press conference and announce the inevitable.But how a fighter can quit so meekly? After all, the maximum he is going to get by retiring are exclusive features in the media, which would probably be his last, and lots of he-did-a-great-job kind of speeches.Would that be acceptable for a personality like Sourav? If people think that it is completely absurd for Sourav to dream of an Indian cap again,let them think. Let Sourav continue to play his shots and others make fun of him, if they want, but he would never call it a day for the simple reason that such an act would not suit the tiger in him. Remember, Azhar is yet to announce his retirement!