The Captaincy Conundrum

The Indian cricket captain has the toughest job in international sports. Several millions watch the game very closely. Everyone has an opinion and plenty of advice. No matter what you do, there will always be plenty of criticism simply by the sheer volume of followers of the game. In this day and age, media scrutiny is another challenge.

Despite all this, our current captain, Ganguly has achieved the unique status of being the most successful Indian captain ever. Yet, there is not a day when someone somewhere calls for his ouster. Persisting with Ganguly might not be so bad after all, and here are a few reasons why.

1. Transition to a new captain takes time. If a new captain is named it definitely requires an adjustment period both for the team and the new captain. I think it takes close to two years for a captain to get comfortable with the job and form his own trusted team of players. With the world cup round the corner in 2007, India must dump Ganguly now if it were to give the new captain sufficient time. At this stage, this seems unlikely, given Ganguly’s record as captain, unless India loses very badly to Pak.

2. Ganguly is the first Indian captain who is not the mainstay of the team! Historically, the top player in the team has always been made the captain. For once, India didn’t do that (more so by circumstance, than by true intent, after Sachin’s failure at captaincy) and we ended up producing the most successful captain. He is at a stage in his career where he has nothing to prove! This is a good position to be in when captaining the side. Since he has never been the teams top batsman, bowler or fielder, he can focus more on the team. There is no other name that comes to mind which fits, this “not the mainstay” criteria and can still enjoy the confidence and respect of the other team members.

3. The alternatives are Sehwag or Dravid. Choosing either would go back to our common mistake of burdening the best player with the captaincy. The result, we end up with the loss of a consistent performer, and a failed captaincy. The other alternative would be Sachin! The less said about this, the better.

In short, Ganguly might not be a genius captain. But he is by far the best we have had and will be so for the foreseeable future. So rather than criticizing him at the slightest opportunity, lets come to terms with the fact that Ganguly might be our best bet under the circumstances.

India-Pak ODI series crucial: If we absolutely have to have a change of captain it might be best to put the new captain in charge of the one-day team first (especially with the world cup in view), a la Australia. If India loose very badly to Pak in the ODI series, a change of captain right way for the one-day side, might be a good move. This will give the new captain sufficient time to prepare for the world cup, and put Ganguly on notice for his Test captaincy. A nice way to phase out the experienced and usher in the youngsters.

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