Friday, December 16, 2005

What's to be done?

This post is necessitated because Greatbong - at whose blog the real debate on Sourav Ganguly rages - has shut down further comments on the subject as the debate got very ugly. I don't blame him. He has put his viewpoint on Dada with lucidity and closely-argued reason. He has been polemical - in the best sense of the word - and in return attracted some very good responses but also many boorish and abusive comments that didn't add to the debate but threatened to trigger base regional sentiments. In fact, while the main issue is Indian cricket and Sourav, the way the debate has panned out has also become a fascinating study of spectator response, filtered through layers of regionally and societally conditioned likes and dislikes plus, of course, pure and simple personal biases. There's raw passion in it which, apart from war, only cricket seems to generate in India. If you haven't seen gb's blog (although I doubt that you haaven't) its: Check it out and you'll see what I mean.

First, the positives of this fierce debate. Times of India did a sms poll today. All-India, 93% said it was wrong to drop Sourav; 95% in Kolkata said the same. So, there's hardly any difference between Bengal and the rest of India in the trend of popular opinion. Secondly, an obscenely overwhelming opinion is in Sourav's favour while stating that selectors have been unfair to him. Such is the popular opinion, an astute politician like Sharad Pawar has quickly dissociated himself from the selectors' decision. As Harsha Bhogle points out today, Dada deserved to lead the team out before bidding goodbye; he deserved a warm hug from his team mates instead of a lonely corner in a room. He says what they've done to him is simply not "good manners" and "courtesy". Guys like Harsha, even when they know grevious wrong has been done, will talk of things like manners and courtesy. They won't talk of the visceral stuff that created this sordid drama because they too are sponging off the system.

So, the big positive is that the overwhelming opinion for Dada shows that his unceremonious ouster is not viewed as wrong only by Bongs alone but by the country as a whole. Even in yesterday's political outrage in Parliament, Arun Jaitley and Amar Singh joined the West Bengal MPs. As far as the common man is concerned, it's not a regional issue, although there are efforts to make it parochial. Hindustan Times today, for instance, has an edit titled, "Lumpens for Dada". Really? I don't think Somnath Chatterjee or Jaitley are lumpens, or for that matter are gb and people like me lumpens. But here's an attempt to tar all those who are vocal in their support for Sourav as lumpens. Gb pointed out how Cybernoon, the net edition of Mumbai's Afternoon, has a gleeful story titled, "Tata Dada".

And now the big negative - it's the ugly regional hues that the issue is acquiring. For me, it's not surprising to me that the biggest support for Sourav comes from West Bengal; had he been a Maharashtrian, people from Maharashtra would have naturally lead the protest. This is not because Bongs or Maharashtrians are a chauvinistic people; it's because a home-grown boy has done the country proud and if he's unfairly shafted, they will cry 'foul' first and also the loudest. It's a sense of belonging with the home-grown boy, not alienation from the rest of the country. Unfortunately, a lot of influential middle-class guys, esp in the media, are seeing it as one. As a result, there's a pretty strong hate-Bongs undercurrent which could erupt into a vocal campaign.

I find this very distressing. And, of course, disgusting. Bongs have been mad about a lot of things, including sportsmen, esp cricketers, and I am not surprised that they're madly passionate about Sourav. In fact, I would tend to agree with gb that regionalism, or if you prefer partisan politics, has also guided the new dispensation's targetting of Sourav. This regionalism is really based on its opposition to Dalmiya and associating Sourav as 'his man'. That's why selectors backing Sourav are sacked (they're also Dalmiya's men), players allegedly close to him are kept out (Zaheer and Nehra) in preference to those who aren't (Agarkar), and those who aren't close to him selected (Wasim Jaffer). It's perhaps accidental that Agarkar and Jaffer are both from Maharashtra, but perhaps it's not. In any case, Bongs can't be blamed if they see the pattern as betraying an assertion of parochial interests. The reaction to Sourav's ouster was, therefore, bound to be regional. And the way he's been dumped - creating the grounds for a regional maelstorm - was, therefore, doubly stupid.

I say stupid because there must also be a pretty strong case against Sourav on cricketing grounds. His sack couldn't have been decided in 20 minutes. And Bongs must see this point (it'll also explain the exasperation of non-Bongs). Since Sourav scored 143 or 146 runs in Brisbane in 2003, his performance has been pretty poor. And if you leave out Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, itsactually quite pathetic. He hasn't been able to perform against good bowlers. Perhaps he was only going through a lean patch and would come out of it (I think he's got 2-3 years cricket in him). But this lean patch also coincided with run-ins with key members of the team, including Dravid (blaming him for the declaration), Sachin, Kumble and VVS. Who was right and who was not isn't the point. When you're the leader and performing, the team will take a lot from you. But when you aren't, you can't come down just as heavily. Somewhere in this period, Sourav - known to be a team man, who gave a toss for what the media said so long the boys were with him - lost the boys' affection and respect. Somewhere the harmony in the team was lost. The contrast between team's performance in the last few month's of Sourav's captaincy and its performance after he was removed as captain is striking and tells an eloquent story. It should tell you something and I would like my Bong friends to grasp that. Somewhere Sourav lost the enormous fund of goodwill he had built among his mates.

So, cool. What do we do with him then? Sack him as captain. Okay. Should he have been also sacked as a player - and that, too, in this manner - because of an overhang of this past? Not at all. I think Pawar & Co (More and Chappell seem to have emerged as key players in the new dispensation) acted with such singular lack of grace because they were still fighting Dalmiya. Rub him to the ground so that he can't pose a challenge again. Well, this is a political fight, they have ended up showing shocking small-mindedness towards the country's most successful captain; a player who has given every good lover of the game great entertainment. If India today disapproves of the decision, it's because of this pettiness that forms the cornerstone of the decision. It's this that's creating an entirely unecessary situation bristling with portends of ugly regional confrontation.

What's the way forward? One way is to let the matter lie, and people would lose interest in the issue with time. But a great injustice would still be done to Sourav who has been humiliated. And how that can be undone, I don't really know.


Blogger bablu said...

Saurav will be back for the Pakistan tour. Dont worry. Bongs - Maharastrians - Well Im Indian first and more importantly a Cricketer first - and my suggestion to Saurav would be - give up one form of the game - concentrate on either ODI's or Tests - get back to the basics (Because U are playing horribly now)-get back your confidence and show your worth. Leave the rest of the politics to the media, politicians and Bloggers to discuss. Dada - all the best - I know U can do it...Cheers !!!

1:38 AM  
Blogger Mukul said...

The only thing that I did not like about the whole episode was the Anti-Bengali color it was painted with.

Perhaps, Ganguly was hated so much till a month back was simply because when you compared Ganguly, the Captain on field with Ganguly clutching willow and visibly shaken against pacers, you wondered how can a man infuse such confidence and courage in the boys he leads yet keep none with himself. And you saw Dravid, his usual consistent self, waiting for his moment. It's easy to understand why there was a crescendo of unrest and dillusion among the fans.

In my personal view, he should not have been dropped even in Sri Lankan ODI series. He sohuld have been told that he'd play in the side for his sheer experience and past record and that Rahul will be given a chance to prove his claims. That would have let Sourav play and reclaim his honor and probably the Skipper's cap while allowing Rahul to prove himself.

But that did not happen. Ironical as it might seem, the fate of all intense love-affairs, careers of most prominent figures and hyped up movies ends rather awkwardly and in a nondescript fashion. Sourav has brought joy to me with his down-the -track sixes and sublime caressings cover drives. But he faltered for too long and more importantly, playing beside his respected, consistent deputy, Dravid.

I would love to see him back not just in the Test but also the ODI team and be a part of a World cup winning team.

I admire his humility through this entire episode, something I miserably failed to notice before Greg came out with a Report Card.

The same nation that was seeking his blood after Greg's mail is today overwhelmingly supporting him. So get the message please and stop playing the Bengali card, it tends to cement the perception among the rest of us that yours is an insipid community that has been voting communists to power for decades.

Everytime you, GreatBong and other Bengalis point out the injustice meted out to Sourav and suggest an anti-bengali sentiment behind it, I can't help but draw a parallel to Pakistan crying tears over the plight of Indian muslims and offering empathy. Get real guys, Greatbong, with all his insightful and eloquent blogs notwithstanding, speaks like a Bengali not like an Indian cricket fan. There are Tamils out there who many not choose to speak Hindi but are overjoyed at every boundary hit by him, Punjabi's love Balaji's disarming smile every time he bags a wicket. My father likes Sourav over Sachin, he believes Sourav has won more India matches than Sachin(well Sachin scores but India goes on to lose, he says!?)

So there you have it, I am punjabi, my girlfriend is bengali, lots of my friends are bengali, and I would be disheartened to find out them having some kinda complex that people don't really like them.

But the saddest day would be when Sourav goes the Azhar way, saying that it all happened to him because he was a bengali. If he does ever say that, he will vindicate you guys and then may be I'll offer a one-finger salute and say, "Then perhaps my hero, you deserved it."


p.s. haven't checked my comments for spelling or flow of thoughts, I am used to commenting on /. ;-)

5:20 PM  
Blogger rani said...

@mukul: Thanks for your comment; it's a corrective for all Bongs. My point was not parochial. The way Sourav was turfed out after Kotla, it seemed irrational and very political. Given that, and coming on top of a regime change in BCCI, it was bound to provoke a stronger reaction in Bengal. Bengalis can get crazy over sports - they've been crazy about Pele, Brazil, Pataudi, Azhar, Dravid as well as Sourav. To take the extreme reactions, and then call bongs parochial is like giving a dog a bad name before...

As for Sourav himself, it's amazing that he missed the Ranji match against Gujarat. I don't know when he'll learn. If this kind of recalcitrance is part of his dna, maybe he doesn't belong to the new team anymore.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Mukul said...

I did not expect you to accept rant as a corrective, so kudos to you for it's kinda gutsy to confess overstepping. More so when it is cricket!

Anyway, a lemon squeezed too hard releases a bitter residue. What if India wins fair and square with Ganguly not clicking? What if Ganguly scores enough but doesnt play a match-winning knock? There are so many scenarios, the Ganguly saga has anything but ended.

I feel sorry for Sourav. When I see Rupa-HOT-Ganguly, Communists, and Bengalis at large supporting Ganguly, I find sentiments that cling more to 'Dada' than 'Ganguly'.

While a streak of local pride is fine, what we have here is a rare and unfortunate case of fanfare going extremely communal. So much so that everything is being seen through the Anti-Bengali prism.

The Sikhs were burnt alive in 84; it was perhaps as grotesque as Jalianwalla incident. Still, even today, they cheer seeing the tapes of Ganguly going down the wicket and lofting spinners for huge sixes. That's passion, for nation, above community. When I look at how Sikhs swallowed so much for nation and moved on with their life and compare it with the reaction among Bengalis over Ganguly losing his cap, I feel sick.

Saying that Bengalis are passionate about Pele, Football, Dada, Communists, Mishti Doi and what not, is a flawed logic and only enforces the stereotype.

Truth be told, world over, only the recent past and the current present is what occupies the mind of common people. And both periods were horrible for Ganguly, the player. Ironically, the price was paid by Ganguly, the leader, followed shortly by Ganguly, the person.

Fair or not, only Sachin & Amitabh seem to have the indemnity, owing solely to the grounded charisma, respect and affection earned over years, to flop many times over without any backlash from hoi polloi.

Two close candidates may be Vajpayee and Dravid, but not quite, I believe.

Not once did the Maraathis & Shiv Sainiks in Lok Sabha shouted that Dravid has been waiting too long for the lazy Sourav to make way. Bengalis must escape their identity for a short while and have an amusing look over their recent rants and antics.

Here is a bumper sticker, fodder for some thought...

Bombing for Peace is like F*cking for Virginity.



1. post scripts are must. :-D
2. I'd like to read GreatBong's thoughts over this.
3. my last p.s. holds true here as well! me has not flair for grammar any, or structure, plus spelling. ;-)
4. I was late on catching Arnab's blog and the bloody flamewar hence these late voluminous rants, but then, wtf!

1:08 PM  
Blogger rani said...

@mukul: It's a pertinent observation: Truth be told, world over, only the recent past and the current present is what occupies the mind of common people. Yes, it was Sourav's pathetic showing that was uppermost on many people's mind; but equally, it was the raw deal he got that was also uppermost on the mind of some others. So, the apathy towards Sourav probably went hand in hand with the vocal expression of outrage at his pre-emptory dismissal from the team.

At the best of times, there hasn't been any unanimity over Sourav. Some hated him even when he was cracking hundreds, while others loved his human frailties. They also loved his arrogant disdain towards opponents. Like keeping Steve Waugh waiting for the toss in Bombay or waving his shirt at Lords. While this was perhaps a calculated mind game over rivals, newspapers pilloried him for his alleged boorish behaviour. The jury, in short, was always out on Sourav. So, the fact that number of guys thought Sourav has met his just deserts when he was dropped. My little point is that some never liked Sourav.

I don't have a quarrel with that -- it's a democracy; surely you are free to choose which sporting hero you wish to love and which to hate. But this hate-Sourav brigade (did you see the hate-Sourav-Ganguly site?) I feel has equated Bongs with Sourav because a number of Sourav's vociferous supporters, not surprisingly, belong to the city he comes from. This transfer of hate from Sourav to a community as a whole is just as problematic as any parochial championing of Sourav. Unless this is recognised, I don't think the issue will ever be debated fairly. As the cliche goes, ek haath se taali nahi bajti. (At times, I marvel at the power of cliches.)

As things stand, the two camps are talking at each other and not with each other. But as you said, "Truth be told, world over, only the recent past and the current present is what occupies the mind of common people." The Sourav issue is already fading and the focus from now onwards will be on his cricketing abilities. Bongs are probably satisfied that what they saw as palpable injustice was also recognised by an overwhelming majority of countrymen, leading to Sourav's inclusion in the team. Often a small gesture is enough to assuage hurt feelings. (The Sourav issue is quite different from the Delhi riots in scale and culpability, and while it's a testimony of the Sikh's sagacity that he is back with the mainstream, the sense of normality has come after an awful phase of alienation and terror.)

One last point about l'affaire Sourav. It's about retirement. There comes a time in everyone's life when they don't have too many productive years left but as of the current point of time they are still productive. Should this category of people be phased out and a younger lot brought in? Personally, I don't think so. Or else, it'll be a terrifying hegemony of the young, fostered by another terrifying brand of capitalism. Wonder what you think?

Cheers. (By the way, your blog is blank - or am I not being able to access it?)

3:17 AM  
Blogger Mukul said...

The way of the world is to praise dead heroes and prosecute live ones.

It seems unlikely that Sourav will regain charisma and popularity. He might redeem the honor though, by staging a short and storming comeback and retiring immediately.

In all likelihood, Dravid will lead India in the next World Cup unless there is a miracle and/or he's injured/dead. Sourav, an aggressive and excellent leader that he has been, would be disappointed to just play like a senior player. He has led for too long to be led by his deputy and not feel bad about the whole thing.

As far as phasing out the senior players is concerned, there are many facets to this question.

1. Someone like Warne or a spinner in general has an edge over other players in terms of physical longevity on cricket field. Sourav, with not the fastest legs, penchant for running partners out and not-so-great athleticism/fitness levels hasn't got many years on the cricket roster for him.

2. Youth Hegemony and all the Capitalism brouhaha is unncessary because we are seeing the invasion of young everywhere..there are more young achievers today than before.

My uncle, with all due respect, would have known much less at 23 than what I know. Not that it makes me wiser, just that the world today is much more intense, ever-changing, and competitive than it was before. Why do we forget that even the youngsters are on their toes because there are too many of them waiting for their chance. Would you call Sehwag or Harbhajan youngsters? I don't think so, they are tenured enough and have transitioned from boys to men. We need constant infusion of young blood and it's maturation at the same time. Your last paragraph defending this change scares me because I fear some armchair octogenarian communist would read it and use it. :-)

How would Sehwag be what he's today had he not been tried and given enough chances in the top order. Irfan Pathan is a tall figure today. He was encouraged and let open the bowling attack in the presence of Zaheer Khan, Agarkar and Nehra. And see what it did to his confidence and performance. Today, Khan & Nehra are struggling to secure a once permanent birth in the squad while Pathan is becoming increasingly instrumental in our victories. Behind most of these progressive and successful moves was Sourav. Circumstantial ironies should not abduct the logic and objectivity of a system. As someone said, Change alone is eternal, perpetual, immortal.

Sourav has to make way and go; he must. But he must ensure that he goes the gallant way. Much of the success in recent years, the metamorphosis, the newfound resistance agaisnt crumbling and losing shamelessly can be attributed to his style of captaincy which was, ironically, almost the Australian way of playing cricket- Aggression, Contempt, Badmouthing, and Relentless performance on field.

He has the opportunity to pen the ending chapters of his illustrious and eventful career. How riveting and memorable his concluding strokes would be, is something that will decide how he'll finally be percieved years down the line.

He has to deliver, one last time, so that sometime in future I will gladly talk about what a tough SOB he was, one of the very best in Cricket, not just Indian Cricket.

You got it right Rani, my blog is indeed blank. I signed up just to comment. It was a stumbling upon the IIPM blogs through some sites that I discovered Gaurav, Rashmi, Greatbong, you and others...

Well I love Hindi over English to read or write. I emote and express fluently in it. Hence no blogs yet.

Plus, it's blasphemous to use internet for anything except porn. :-) so when I'm not leeching torrents of 70's classic French porn, I am either refreshing every 2 minutes or reading Crystal's uproarious CCSL blogs. :-P

May be I'll start writing someday.

1:33 PM  

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