All this fuss about Ganguly

There has been quite a ruckus being created lately by Ganguly’s recent failures with the bat. Personally, I think it is fine for Ganguly to struggle and be a total wuzz, provided of course the team can win. The truth is that the team can still win while Ganguly continues to fail, like it has done for the most part, since the start of his captaincy!

However, winning at a minimum, requires a coherent strategy barring which all we can do is sit back and hope that the individual brilliance of a Veeru (or I dare say Sachin) take us to victory. The recent Test at Bangalore was a complete failure of leadership more than anything else. By this I don’t mean Ganguly’s failure with the bat. It appears as though the team had no strategy whatsoever. At least none of the post match statements seem to imply a coherent strategy of any kind. Here are a few clues.

1. When quizzed about what was told to Sachin when he went into bat, Ganguly said in Azhar-esque style that Sachin was senior and didn’t need to be told what to do! This is a huge mistake. Much like in a corporate environment, even the best of performers need to be clearly communicated (not to mention reminded) on what the team goals are and what the overriding strategy is. In fact, these things change from time to time and everyone concerned needs to adapt accordingly. There is no room whatsoever to leave ANYTHING for interpretation with regard to the overall strategy. Leaders can choose to give individuals the flexibility to contribute to the common goal in there own style. So for instance, if the goal was to save the match and play out the overs, and Sachin chose to pat half volleys down only to give Pak the upper hand and finally choke under pressure. Then it reflects very poorly on the genius. On the other hand if he went in with no clear instructions (as it seems to be the case), it understandable that he flumfed around and finally choked. I am tempted to throw in a variation of a cliche, “If you don’t know exactly what is expected of you, no matter how great you are, chances are you can never deliver”

2. Veeru wrote in his column that only he could have taken the team to victory. While this is very much true he does not spell out clearly what the team strategy was. “Perhaps playing for a draw was not such a good idea since most of our batsmen are cast in the strokeplaying mould. Even at tea, the general mood was that we would scratch out a draw. The possibility of defeat dawned on us when Sachin Tendulkar got out.” In other words, he was not inclined to play for a draw, he thinks the team screwed up by playing for a draw, which btw, was only an idea and not a clear overall strategy.

3. The fast-fading VVS said on day 4 of the test match that we are going to go for it and that anything is possible when Veeru is around. Besides, the time when Veeru was around, it never looked like we were going for it. Wonder what the basis of his comments were.

4. Ganguly said “We had decided to play normal cricket and weren’t thinking about the target. After lunch we got a bit defensive and lost a few wickets as a result. It wasn’t a conscious effort to get defensive but it cost us the game.” Normal cricket? What on earth is that? To me that spells, “No strategy, just play and lets see what happens”. With all the modern analysis techniques its a shame that it came down to this. Since we were not thinking about the target, we obviously weren’t thinking about winning. Since it wasn’t a conscious effort to get defensive, we weren’t obviously trying to “defend and draw”. Then what on earth were we doing??

Despite these bits and pieces of info, there is no candid response from the India team management that this was our strategy and this is where and why it failed and this is what we learnt from this. To me this is more alarming than Ganguly’s repeated failures with the bat.

If Ganguly were to regain his form it will require a lot of focus and energy from him on himself more than the team. Its highly possible that the team will fail while he redeems himself as a batsman! So I would much rather have him focus on the team and forget about his personal exploits. After all, that is the true challenge for a captain.

I think the Indian cricket lovers should stay more focused on the team successes and failures than on its captain’s failings. If we did that, we wouldn’t be complaining about why Sachin has never played a match winning knock in the recent past, why VVS was dropped though he scored x and y, why Ganguly is still in the team, etc. Instead we would be obsessing over why we don’t win consistently despite so many super stars.

Chill out, stop talking about individual successes, instead focus on the team successes and failures, and hold Ganguly responsible for the team. India won the first one day despite a duck from the captain (see, I told you, India can win even if he flunks 🙂 , 4 insiginificant runs from an all time great, and two centuries one each from each our top run-getters. Frankly, I don’t don’t care, to me, what matters is India won.

For starters, lets give Ganguly some credit for this win, if not for anything specific, at least for the final result.

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