Monday, January 17, 2011

Big Brother Batting

"Some felt he couldn't play the bouncer, others swore that he was God on the off-side" – thus begins Sourav Ganguly's bio on Cricinfo.

And for reasons other than intended, it characterises opinions about the man to perfection. As in most of the myths and legends built around this one of a kind cricketer, both these assertions are glorified half truths at two extremes of criticism.

Sourav Ganguly, because of a combination of several parameters, tends to polarise opinions and drive them to the limits of positive and negative axes, till the facts themselves become too dispersed for conclusion. The man himself often got – and still gets – lost somewhere between hyperboles and sarcasms. Delving through the piles of chronicles documented by the media and others for worshipping fan following and sceptic naysayers, it is often difficult to derive the true quality of the player and the leader. The figures too get hidden by the emotional outpourings, much as the player himself often took the backseat with the palpating heart he wore on his sleeve frequently taking charge of the proceedings.

Let me come back to the initial statements.

He was indeed distinctly uncomfortable against the short ball – a well known chink in his armour, and a gaping one. Often, when the wicket offered bounce, batting for him turned into a game of Russian roulette. The moment the rule changed to 2 permissible bouncers per over at the turn of the century, the southpaw changed from a consistent, promising batsman to an eminently pedestrian one. However, one cannot score more than 7000 runs in test cricket without being able to play the bouncer at all. He struggled with it, looked clumsy during the negotiations, regularly succumbed to it – but did sometimes survive to score.

The second part of the statement is a similar half truth at the other end of the spectrum. Rahul Dravid had been impressed enough to utter his oft repeated quote about there being God followed by Sourav Ganguly on the off side. Though I am yet to see God essay a cover drive in the Garden of Eden, the essence of this statement remained true only for balls pitched up and struck between the cover point and mid off. Whenever he played finer and to balls shorter in length, often a very productive slash-steer through the gully area, he looked too streaky and fallible to be compared to the Almighty. The number of times the second gully or the deepish point came into play to bring about his demise is beyond count. He indeed looked heavenly when he drove through the covers, but when he walked back after  being caught in the offside cordon behind or square of the wicket, it was a drastic paradise lost as he and his fans were brought cruelly plummeting to earth.

 In trying to analyse his career, one has to separate emotions from facts, hyperboles from reportage, the captain from the batsman – and as we shall see, the on field captain from the off field one.

Even the statistics need to be finely stripped and scrutinised.

The batting career of the left hander can be broken up into 3 distinct segments. Pre captaincy days which coincided with the one bouncer per over rule. The captaincy days leading to his unceremonious omission. And finally his second wind – a respectable return including some of his best innings.

Looking at figures at this juncture makes sense.
Overall he scored 7212 runs at 42.17 with 16 hundreds. Playing in an era when 50 is the new 40 of batsmanship, and in a batting line up densely packed with some of the greatest batsmen ever produced by India, these numbers are hardly remarkable. However,  Ganguly's importance to Indian cricket lies in very small part as a batsman.

Pre captaincy and pre bouncer days saw him play 35 tests, score a very decent 2505 runs at a creditable average of 45. With the new stalwarts of Indian middle-order starting to gather around the established genius of Sachin Tendulkar, it was definitely a phase when the fab four looked likely to take off. Sourav and Rahul seemed to have completed the groundwork for greatness while VVS was still stumbling along his selectorially challenged initial stretch of what was soon to become a very, very special path.

Then came the captaincy era coinciding with the two bouncers per over rule, when he fended every bowler of decent and not so decent pace, including Dillon and Kallis, off his face. During this period he played 53 matches, and scored 2716 runs at an average of 37, with 5 hundreds of which two came against Zimbabwe. The figures plumb further depths if one takes Zimbabwe and Bangladesh out of the equation. His larger than life image continued to be worshipped by fans – mainly from his state, but the truth was that the batting skills of the big brother of Indian cricket had declined alarmingly. His reign as captain remained successful – and we will discuss this later – but his performances during this period were put in very dark shade by Dravid , who during the same period scored 5732 runs at 65 with 16 hundreds, Sachin 4433 at 56 (13 hundreds), Laxman 3625 at 50 (6 hundreds)  and Sehwag  3709 at  52 (11 hundreds). While the well known human psychological anchoring continued to fib the fable of fab four, to the analytical, India were virtually playing half a batsman short. In the one day game too, there seemed to be alarming deterioration in his ability to play crucial knocks.
However, these failures to deliver with the bat were for long camouflaged by the 21 Test match victories, and the amazing run up to the final of the World Cup. And as was predictable to all but the man himself and his fans in denial, when the team stopped winning, the unproductive willow came under scanner and scrutiny, and when he was replaced at the helm, there was soon no longer a place for him in the team.

The final stretch is considered to be the redemption of the man – a back to basics approach when he demonstrated that his run scoring ability was not entirely defunct. Wiith Dravid's prolific form deserting him, at long last Sourav Ganguly could shine as one of the leading lights of the vaunted middle order. In the 25 Tests after his return, he scored 1991 runs full of character, at an average of 46 with 4 hundreds, of which only one was against Bangladesh. He looked solid, put a non-negotiable high price on his wicket, and strikingly, his rejuvenated bat doing almost all of the talking. Even as the fans and the vernacular media elevated his solid performances to the level of the second coming of their messiah, the man who during the first half of the decade had been the loud speaker of Indian cricket remained audibly silent.

In spite of the flashy start with two centuries in his first two Test matches, it was really towards the end of his career that Sourav Ganguly played some of his best innings. The 102 against Australia at Mohali and the 87 against South Africa in Kanpur during the last couple of years showed a face of the batsman his ardent worshippers had always imagined through expectant extrapolation, one that had never manifested itself earlier. This was the stolid batsman that may have ended up with a couple of more thousands under his belt and an average several notches higher. One cannot help but wonder whether India's climb to number one might have been faster if this had been the Sourav Ganguly batting with the rest of the Indian greats in their prime between 2000 and 2005. Would Indian cricket have been better served if an underperforming skipper had not continually walked in at number 5 ahead of a Laxman at his best?

Critics went further than that. Is not Sourav Ganguly the captain largely a figment of imagined greatness? With the removal of minnows did not his win-loss ratio tumble down to a modest 12-12 from an impressive 21-13? Does not Dhoni  sport a far better record while also averaging a lot more with the bat as captain, even when his main job is wicket keeping? Is not the image of his shirt waving triumph - forever lnked to the myth of his exceptional captaincy -  in a three-nation Natwest Trophy his only tournament win in a five year reign? Haven't his only series victories away from India come against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh - that too a depleted Zimbabwe?

Well, as with the rest of the legends surrounding the man, the story of his captaincy also drives people to extremes of opinions. While his run to the World Cup final is a milestone of unlimited pride for his followers, there are sceptics who point out that India's semi final opponent was Kenya and that under him the team never became the number one in Tests - in spite of the aging superstars of today being then in their prime, with the now retired additional fire-power of Srinath and Kumble. While ardent admirers give him all the credit for the transformation of Harbhajan Singh into a bowler of class, there are others who point out that he could never utilise a rare talent like Murali Karthik.

I have said already that Ganguly's contribution to Indian cricket goes much beyond his batting – which in spite of ending with a muffled bang remained pretty much an unfulfilled promise. While his captaincy record is indeed fluffed up with back to back tours of Zimbabwe and multiple encounters in Bangladesh, nevertheless his contribution was priceless at a critical juncture in the history of Indian cricket.
Ganguly's fan following stems from the qualities India love. Loud, passionate, melodramatic – the recipe for thousands of Bollywood blockbusters. And in the psyche of the traditional Indian fan, with glaring cinema posters forming the background of formative years, a hero is seldom expected to be subtle and is always someone who cannot be faulted. So, even when he is ousted after averaging in his 30s for over five years and 50 tests, there is public outrage and burning of effigies. When he comes back as a better batsman, it is not a result of the constructive time in domestic cricket to iron out the grotesque wrinkles that had crept into his batsmanship – it is all about proving Greg Chappel wrong. Even Harsha Bhogle, repeatedly reminded by experts that a batsman has go back to first class games to recover his form, kept publicly harping his doubts on the motivation required to drag oneself to a Siliguri Ranji outing after getting used to MCG, Lords and Durban. Ganguly the man had grown so much in stature that such ridiculously small endeavours became unthinkable. Lokendra Pratap Sahi, scathing in his criticism of Chappel, argued that 'icons' cannot be handled like mere mortals.

And this is what irritated the other section of cricket followers. When even a Sachin Tendulkar can reflect on his game and change his technique to come back a more prolific batsman, why should a separate yardstick be used for someone who consistently performed below par for nearly two third of his career.

Yet, it was the passion of the man, which had the unfortunate result in provoking insane public outrage and misguided burning of effigies, that ended up as the building block of what has made India the side it is today.

The cherished image of the man at the pinnacle is when he stands bare breasted on the pavilion of Lords, with the blue Indian jersey propelled by his adrenaline charged hands into fast and furious orbits around his ecstatic face. Another gesture which polarised fans into two diametrically opposite extremes of thought. The sophisticated followers would like to see a bat in his hand and not his own shirt, while for the frenzied fans, he had become a rock star to whose beat they gleefully stepped.

However, this was what Ganguly had set out to prove. If Flintoff has the audacity to do it in our backyard, so do I in your citadel, in your revered Mecca of cricket, in the sacred warehouse of all your traditions. India under him was no longer the talented, soft spoken pushovers. With the team building itself into a balanced, formidable and phenomenally talented group of cricketers, he provided the desperately needed missing spark. The spark to stand up against the global 'gamesmanship' which had long kept the nation down to a storehouse of fascinating talent reined in by the conventions of humility, respect and deference. What he did was to provide the threshold energy for the fetters of colonial decency and deference to be collectively broken through more than fifty years after independence.

What this meant was when Mike Dennes banned six Indian players for excessive appealing and ball tampering, the team was not ready to take it lying down irrespective of the so called British fairness associated with the decision. If the ICC believed that there were two sets of rules applicable on the field, manly gamesmanship of the honest young white lads that transformed into behaviour bringing the spirit of the game into disrepute when repeated by erstwhile colonies, if they could not lower their supercilious heads to look closely at the difference in the cultural texture of the subcontinent, Indians had developed the gall to stand up to it and divide the cricket world into two if necessary.

After the Mike Dennes affair, Steve Waugh commented that whatever Sachin Tendulkar had been doing with the ball had not looked good on TV. Sourav responded, "He should shut up and concentrate on Australian cricket." There had been no Indian captain of this drastic directness sans any sign of deference.

If an Australian captain had the noble privilege to engage in mental disintegration of opponents, Sourav Ganguly did have the pioneering Indian balls to be late for toss, dispute over the result of the flip of the coin and get permanently established under the fair skin of hitherto unchecked and unchallenged bullies. Never mind that he seldom managed to emulate Steve Waugh with the bat, his toungue matched him stroke for stroke.

When these mind games were transferred on field, however, the results were mixed. Whenever his dear friend from county cricket, Andrew Flintoff, walked out to bat in India, Ganguly perched himself under his nose at silly point, feet firmly placed on the nerves of the big allrounder, and yielded excellent results. However, during the tantalising decider against the Aussies in Chennai, on the final morning, attempting the same mental tactics, the captain promptly dropped two sitters at the same fielding position. Yes, often gamesmanship got better of the player, and subtle tactical brilliance on the pitch was often substituted by passionate palpitating heart dictating proceedings on the field. Yet, the amount of transformation he engineered could be excused the couple of goof ups.

Many argue that all the glory of his captaincy might have been washed away with the flow of champagne that the Aussies had stored up in the pavilion of the Eden Gardens had VVS and Rahul not come up with that unbelievable fight-back. True, the actual victory had hardly anything to do with his captaincy on the field. The previous match at Wankhede had been lost arguably because of poor bowling changes when Hayden and Gilchrist had been at the wicket at 99 for 5. In the decider he all but lost the match with two dropped catches and surprisingly careless batting in the second innings. But, when Indians vanquished the Aussies, it was as much due to the on-field brilliance of Laxman, Dravid, Sachin and Harbhajan as the contribution of Ganguly in reining in the mind games of the opponents, not mincing words in the press conferences and overturning all those traditions of hospitality and being the temperate gentleman that had for so many years held India to heroic performances in defeat.

A captain is as good as his team, but Ganguly went a step further by providing his bunch of brilliant people the luxury to concentrate on their trade. Sachin Tendulkar with his genius, Rahul Dravid with his consistency, VVS Laxman with his sublime skills, Anil Kumble with his metronomic match winning abilities engineered India into a powerhouse. None of them lost the image of the soft spoken gentlemen they were. What Sourav Ganguly ensured was that they were able to carry on their excellence while he slashed away at the evil tentacles of psychological manoeuvres of opponents which had earlier targeted the behavioural politeness of these performers to win the day through gamesmanship to start with an immense upperhand even before a ball was bowled. The new crop of talents, Sehwag and Harbhajan, who were nurtured by the big brother himself, showed a completely new facet of the Indian cricketer. They were as competitive and sometimes more proficient in mind games than their rivals. The team had learnt to give it back in kind as far as mental disintegration was concerned. Sourav's candid, unapologetic and articulate voice also thwarted another force that have had excellent success in keeping Indian success stories limited - that of the excellent homegrown domestic press. Crticisms now had a single point of contact off which they bounced back, the players just played to win.

While the fans, especially from the excitable Bengal who have had too few cricketing heroes, normally wax eloquent about Sourav Ganguly's captaincy record abroad, there are people who point out substantial holes in the numbers.
Why is it that his only true overseas series victories have come in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh? Why is it that India has lost series in West Indies, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and drawn against a much weaker England during his reign? People also point out that the Indian victory in Pakistan was largely engineered by Dravid, who led the side in the first two tests and scored 270 in the third. They also analyse mercilessly to point out that under Dravid, India won in West Indies and England, under Dhoni in Sri Lanka and New Zealand – things they never achieved under Ganguly. Is his captaincy record abroad an urban legend born in Kolkata, like so many stories about the man?

A closer look at statistics reveal 5 wins against 9 defeats in 21 away tests  if one eliminates Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, with poor results in New Zealand, South Africa and West Indies. India did not perform well under him overseas, irrespective of the spin put on the record by the media. It is true that under Dravid or Dhoni, India has been more successful on tours even when playing with weaker sides. However, again, the contribution of Sourav Ganguly lies not in the numbers, but somewhere else.

I have discussed the changes  in the mindset brought about by Dada during the two series against Australia and England at home. His contribution in this aspect was even more remarkable abroad. He always went overseas to win, even if the ultimate outcome not always turned out to be positive. In Australia, following a painfully predictable script, Indians were struggling in Brisbane, four wickets down, when Sourav put his head down to make 144. As with the rest of the achievements of this man, this innings also polarises opinion. There are his rooters who use this hundred to demonstrate his pedigree as a batsman who could handle pace and bounce, and there are analysts who point out that it was an Australia without Glen McGrath, Brett Lee and Shane Warne, with Nathan Bracken leading the bowling attack.

But the fact remains that Sourav Ganguly did stand there to pull India out of the mindset that Australia is synonymous to meek surrender. The test petered out to a draw. Dada was back in the pavilion with India at 87 for 4 chasing 555 in the second test. It was again VVS and Dravid who staged the second miraculous association to win it for India. Yet, at a vital point, Sourav had stood there with the bat and shown the world that things had changed.

People criticise his captaincy in the fourth test which allowed the match to slip away from a winning position, not enforcing a follow on, not attacking as much as required. People speak of unimaginative bowling changes and delayed declaration. But, India did come back with a shared series with the almighty Aussies down under.

With time, the character shown in that 144 faded and disappeared altogether from his batting. But, the process of transformation from poor tourists to conquerors had been started and he had been largely the man responsible for it.

India is a unique nation. With the outrageous amount of media and celebrity frenzy, with innumerable Television Channels and less than mediocre ex-cricketers featuring in pathologically perverted shows such as Match Ka Mujrim, captaincy is less of an honour and more of a living nightmare. There is no point in comparing performances of Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, or even Shaun Pollock as captain with that of Sourav Ganguly. (Pollock indeed happens to average more than Sourav with the bat as a captain) India is a completely different ball game. While Nassir Hussain is all but nominated for knighthood because of losing a series in India by a margin of just 0-1, Tendulkar is criticised for scoring just 88, 103 and 90 in the same 3 test matches. The logic defying parameters of measurement and the heavy yellow pigmentation of journalism in this strange country has to be lived through to be believed. Tendulkar and Dravid average in their fifties as skippers, but they performed nowhere near their best while in the hot seat. Dilip Vengsarkar started with two centuries, but the toils of being the captain of a team touring the West Indies brought a premature end to his greatness as a batsman. During his second stint at the helm, Kapil Dev was a pale shadow of the wicket taking fast bowler that he had been in the early eighties. Mohammed Azharuddin managed the job with his batting blessed by a lacklustre attitude which has been coloured by scandal, and Sunil Gavaskar did spend a lot of troublesome time at the top with the peculiar psychological advantage of enjoying controversy. But, overall, captaining an Indian team is a handful, and a handful of red hot coal at that. Rahul Dravid acknowledged as much when he summarised the intense media focus as 'ridiculous'. Amidst all this, for a long, long while, Sourav Ganguly succeeded in ensuring that Indian cricket was insulated from these home grown recipes of disaster.

It did catch up with the southpaw when the team lost the home series to Australia in 2004, not really helped by his disastrous performances with the bat. Next the side relinquished the lead to Pakistan in a subsequent home series, as he struggled to come to terms with the innocuous leg spinners of Shahid Afridi. By then, he was in denial, unable to accept that something was terribly wrong with his batting. And when he was shown the door, neither was the dismissal handled with the minutest modicum of tact, nor did he have the sense to leave with dignity. The way the entire episode was carried out speaks unpleasant volumes about the structure and mindset of the Indian cricket administration and the flock of scavenging vultures that is the country’s media.

The sceptre changed hands, the big brother was banished to the deglamourised backwaters of domestic cricket. It speaks as much for the tenacity and skills of the man as for the ineptitude of replacements like Yuvaraj Singh and Suresh Raina that he came back stronger and performed commendably. Yet, to me, all that is a pleasing epilogue of his important contributions. He had played his major part already … during 2000 to 2004, teaching the Indian team to play with the intent to win. They were no longer supposed to smile politely as opposition teams and their ex-cricketers and journalists messed with their sensibilities, but at the slightest provocation were capable of giving them enough reason not to. As a newcomer, he had not pulled his verbal punches when four test wonders had lectured him about temperament. As captain, he ensured that his team was not only shielded from the self destructive avalanche of criticism that the Indian media and ex-players excel in, they could also tweak the publicity for their own purpose.

Indian cricket needs captains who are not supposed to be the best batsman or bowler in the team. Who can thus have the breathing space to deal with the bloodsucking combination of the corporate interest, scavenging media and hyper expectant fans so that the great names in the team can continue to perform and win matches. Perhaps that is why Dhoni is having a real run of success at the helm.

The question that rises naturally is whether Ganguly, in order to play that role, sacrificed himself as a player? Did we trade a great batsman to end up with a successful captain with a decent but unremarkable record with the bat?

Diehard fans would say his record is still remarkable, logical admirers would like to believe in the story of the sacrifice… but to me these questions make no sense. Was it the burden of captaincy or was it the two bouncer per over rule that transformed him as a batsman? Or was it a combination of both?
These lead to many more uncomfortable questions that cannot be answered.
Would Vinod Kambli, who played 14 matches and boasted an average of 54 with 4 hundreds, make more than 7000 and 16 hundreds if given a run for 100 more tests? What about Pravin Amre?
We can argue till cows come home, but we we will never know.

Lastly, I will not breathe even one word about the IPL circus that surrounds the man now. In the career of a major pillar of modern Indian cricket, IPL is less than a footnote or trivia. It is a joke. Jesse Owens ran against horses to earn his bread after his Olympic days. Does Sourav Ganguly need to run with the less than noble animals like the Lalit Modis and the film personalities? It is a personal choice, but not within the periphery of interest of a true 'cricket' fan.


  1. As always , a great read ! Journalism in cricket has become a joke. Thanks for the sanity.

  2. This is a fantastic article. I don't agree to all points you have made, but most of them are spot on. I am a total Ganguly hater, just don't like him at all. I have always felt and will continue to feel that he got too much credit for what ever he did. I guess the bengali backing and godfather Dalmiya's hand was surely re-assuring for him.

    In the 21 wins as captains, which officially makes him India's most successful test skipper, Dravid averaged 102. That's right, 102. Similarly, Laxman and Sehwag were amazing and so were Bhajji, Kumble, Zaheer and Srinath.

    One of the many things I hated about him, was that he was a clever politician. When he was out of the team, he played Ranji and English county and made no runs what so ever. But, then he went onto say bad things about Dalmiya, and became friends with Sharad Powar who was in power currently. Needless to say, he was back in the team soon.

    Compare this to Dravid. Dravid after getting dropped from ODIs, immediately scored a big ton in a Ranji game for Karnataka. He is a simple man who does his job and hopes the rest falls into place. Had he tried his hand at dirty politics like Ganguly, he probably would be back as well. But, wasn't pick till India was struggling itself.

    Hence, I have way more respect for Rahul Dravid. In spite of the good things about Ganguly's captaincy, I have always hated him. More so, because he got blind support from people because they shared a religion with him. That to me is ridiculious.

    Anyways, very good read. I certainly will suggest this to all my cricket blogging friends.

    Cheers. :)

  3. I came here as someone mentioned u had written a balanced post on Ganguly.

    Super Impressive read! ( a tad long tho:) ) - TY for putting things in perspective!

    He will always be the King of Indian cricket for me and no I don't belong to Bengal:)

  4. nice article.... but u have missed some points..!!
    he did sacrificed his batting for team...... just check out his record in tests batting at no. 4 .. u will realize that... he was far superior batting at that position than his contemporaries....
    and dada`s contribution can never be ignored.... he was the best..!!

  5. Your article is a brilliant effort at belittling a cricketing giant very subtlely, but to jog your memory on a few more of his inumerable contributions which you conveniently ignored at your choice-
    1. 1st of all, there's no restriction on bouncers in tests, watch his comeback series against SA and you'll learn that (btw, he was instrumental in turning around the team's performance and not as a captain but as a batsman only) and against Pakistan and against Australia and against SA again and again...
    2. 2nd watch his match winning 2nd innings 99 against Sri Lanka as a captain on a broken track away from home.
    3. Watch his ODI hundred partnerships with Sachin until he sacrificed his slot to nurture another batting tornado called Viru.
    4. Watch his devastating slaughtering of SA, NZ and Australia in the Chamions Trophy in SA as a captain, and don't forget to watch the Natwest Trophy in England as a captain as well.
    5. I agree with you if you are saying that he has not achieved what he should / could have had he not wasted his talent by focussing on captaincy but hey, what would you have? A personal record gathering maniac or a winning team India?
    6. Batting at no. 6 does not let you score a lot of hundreds, but look at all the 50s and 80s he has scored and you'll see that all have significantly enhanced the team's cause at the cost of around 10-15 more individual 100s for him and when they mattered most.
    7. He was forced out of the ODI team as the top scorer in his last series against the WI. He was forced out of the test team as the highest scorer in his last series against the OZs and he was forced out of the IPL in his last appearance as one the top 4 scorers. Can you imagine this being the case with anyone else who is not from the Eastern region?
    8. Last but not least, your pen or my pen or anyone else's for that matter will not be able to silence the crowd from breaking into a rapture everytime he appears before them and not without reason!!! He wears his heart on his sleeve like Kapil dev did...material that makes legends and not personal records only.

  6. @Sanjay : I think you ought to read the post by this same writer in this same blog where he compares the 5 great batsmen of Indian cricket using statistical techniques.
    Forget hundreds, forget runs ... just consider performances over a long period and you will see the rationale behind the painting of Sourav as exactly he was.
    One off citing of matches, and scores do not really count as rational defence. Sourav Ganguly polarised opinion, but he remained a great contributor to India's cause exactly the way the author points out while being a largely mediocre batsman for most of his career.
    No restriction of bouncer in tests??? Get your facts right ...
    Match winning 99 against SL? Dravid won the match long before him, and he score 98 and not 99 ... and against a very insipid attack.
    His contrbutions have been saluted in this article ... I don't see any reason for everyone to be a blind fan as you are.
    Senantix posts bring perspective back into cricket, something people like you have abandoned long back with blind hero worship.

  7. superlike "He brought that abstract winning quality into the ranks of the Indian team that now bears fruit in the world number one ranking ... He added that elusive attribute to a group of amazing talents" ... me too his fan only for this!! A true maharaj as he is called !! Soma Roy Sarkar.

  8. I have been a fan of the Senantix cricket blog for a long time now. I have enjoyed all his pieces, and was eagerly awaiting his post on Dada and the subsequent reactions. He did not disappoint, with a brilliantly written analysis. And Sanjay did not disappoint in carrying on the tradition of extreme idol worship.
    Come on Sanjay - reserve your supposed logical refutation for the likes of Greg Chappel. These blogs are a class apart.
    @ Sanjay : You say "Batting at number 6 does not allow too many hundreds!!" For your information, dada batted at 5 for most of his life, pushing a far more deserving Laxman down to six. And some of the biggest accumulators of hundreds, including Steve Waugh, Garfield Sobers, InzamamulHaq etc. have played their cricket from 5 or below for most of their career. How come they could do what your idol could not?
    I think the article has been extremely balanced ... pointing out both virtues and vices. If you can't live with it go and burn effigies of everyone like the archetypical dada fan.
    For a detailed stat analysis of how good Sourav actually was, go ahead and check
    Please reserve your regional bias for cricinfo comments and Rediff warfare. This site is frequented by people like me who love a good, unbiased read on cricket.

  9. Navillus, I would like to think that you are a logical minded person and hence will try and explain a few things to you as someone having played CAB senior division cricket myself-
    1. Your understanding of a technical 'bouncer' is correct as one passing over the shoulder which is currently restricted to 2 per batsman per over in tests by ICC. However, as an opening bat myself, I have had to deal with balls bouncing upto my rib cage more often than the first variety that you are talking about, it is this type of ball which is usually bowled by fast bowlers from Pak, SA and OZ in plenty every over relentlessly. Good fast bowlers usually do not waste their energy bowling the technical 'bouncer' too much as it is one of the easiest balls to let go by keeping your eye on it and ducking. That's what I was referring to when I mentioned Sourav's handling of the same in his last 6 series' against these teams both away and at home. If you have followed his batting with un-biased intent, you would note that he was one of the better players of fast bowling in the team in his comeback phase and got out more often to spinners as opposed to pacers (as is generally perceived by some).
    2. Since you have already decided that Sourav is mediocre, nothing I say or he did / does is going to change that opinion as it will always appear 'one-off' to you and like minded ones.
    3. But mediocrity does not extend any cricketer's career to 10/15 years at a stretch, nor does it generate comebacks of legendary proportions which Sourav has demonstrated again and again. It certainly does not make a no. 1-3 ranked ODI bat for 2-3 years at a stretch with 20 100s during the time and it certainly does not forge the worlds most devastating (record breaking?) opening partnerships in ODIs as well.
    4. Zygote, the last bouncer is for you my friend. Sourav polarizes opinion, hence you and me...but where you scooped up a dolly trying to fend off this one is that he is actually not my idol, I am merely pained by the slander people like you hurl at a great cricketer like Sourav just becoz you think he gets credit bcoz of 'you have no clue what'. Obviously, he does not have the records in tests that a Sachin or Dravid has and his mammoth ODI record is 'nothing' in your eyes no matter what:-)
    My idol in terms of batting is actually Sunny Gavaskar who I personally rate head and shoulders above Sachin regardless of whether he has 100 100s by the time he retires of his own volition or anyone else for that matter.

  10. @Sanjay - a true die hard fan of Dada.
    You demonstrated the relentless inclination of the archetypical dada fan to steer clear of statistics - which shows your idol (no. 2) in very bad light indeed.
    I told you to read Senantix's last post (Statistician compares fab 5) where as a batsman, Sourav is definitely trailing the other 4 great Indian batsmen by a long way, and that is unbiased rational statistics, not emotional rants. Neither did you answer why Sourav Ganguly scored less runs and hundreds from no. 5 than Sobers, Inzamam, Steve Waugh, Clive Lloyd, Alan Border etc.
    Gavaskar featured in 23 won matches in his 122 tests. Compare that with Sachin's 61. Compare the degree of domination over opponent bowlers. Both were great, but just mere statements don't make one greater. Or if you are indeed logical, try the analysis Senantix carried out on Gavaskar and Sachin.
    The article in question judges the merit of batsmen in Test Cricket. Sourav was indeed a good ODI batsman, but his peak was for a short period (2-3 yrs as you mentioned)
    He came back a better batsman- and it has been acknowledged in the article, but did not set the stadiums of fire really - as you would have the world believe. I really can't see what your problem is with the article. If you want eulogies to Sourav Ganguly, read Bengali dailies.

  11. His team India is reaping the benefits today! All the credit goes to him: as a batsman and as a captain!

  12. Zygote, this game is played on the field and not with you'll not get it, ever, never:-)

  13. @Sanjay: What's your point?
    Is it that Sobers, Steve Waugh, Inzamam, Border and all of them manufactured their hundreds and runs with calculators while the ever deprived dada from the east got a raw deal and had to go out on the field? Why is it that all of those people and later Sachin, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag and the rest have superior fîgures than your idol no. 2? Why is that as a captain, Imran, Pollock and even Taibu have 'better batting averages' than Sourav in tests?
    A batsman is not exactly a caveman - so, his outputs on the field can be measured and analysed like any other endeavour of the rational animal that we are. Or is Sourav way above measurement? The game is played on the field but the results can be analysed with calculators and it is nothing but blind devotion that makes people close eyes to the evidence.
    Is dada's career something like modern art, the greatness of which is not apparent to the naked eye? A far more reasonable explanation is that logic and hero worship do not go hand in hand.

  14. @Zygote: Please upload a picture to your profile for Sanjay to burn your effigy.
    @Sanjay: Thanks for the entertainment. But, I wonder why your logic deviates so much. When handicapped by comparatively poor Test Match figures of Sourav Ganguly, you bring his ODI exploits into the poicture - even IPL. But, when you want to pull down Sachin, you compare him with Sunil Gavaskar - presumably only with Test figures. If ODI and Tests are combined, Sachin cannot be measured using the same yardsticks, let alone compared.
    @Souvik: Were you serious in your remarks or satirical. It is difficult to make out.

  15. Nav aur Zyg ji, Dil pe mat le yaar, aisehi chher raha hun aap logon ko:-)
    "Sourav Ganguly's average of 66.00 from 20 innings at No. 4 is indeed the highest average there in Tests, given your qualification of 1000 runs (he scored 1188). Five others have averaged more than 60 at No. 4: Garry Sobers made 1530 runs at 63.75 there, Everton Weekes 3372 at 63.62, and Graeme Pollock 2065 at 62.57, plus the current players Jacques Kallis (7183 at 62.46) and Mahela Jayawardene (7570 at 60.07). The most Test runs scored at No. 4 is 11,629 (at an average of 57.85) by Sachin Tendulkar (before the Mohali Test against Australia). For the full list, click here."
    Best Indian batsmen in the second innings in wins (min 600 runs) Batsman Matches Runs Average 100 50
    VVS Laxman 31 1217 67.61 2 9
    GR Viswanath 18 767 54.78 2 3
    Sachin Tendulkar 41 1247 51.95 3 6
    Rahul Dravid 40 1231 51.29 2 7
    Sourav Ganguly 28 658 50.61 0 4
    Sunil Gavaskar 19 633 42.20 2 3
    Virender Sehwag 24 718 37.78 0 5
    Kyon, aur gussa dilaoon? Ha ha ha...

  16. @Sanjay: Sorry, I don't know the language you have used, presumably Hindi. I have to wait till an Indian colleague comes in to translate.
    Good to see you taking recourse to rational statistics - although misguided.
    I am no stats master like Senantix, but do have a certain knowledge. And hence can tell you that the figures don't show statistical significance. It is a copy of Cricinfo columns, which the blogger has said just posts data without inference.
    I will tell you why not. The sample size is too small. At least in 4th position, just 20 cases makes it prone to fluctuations. The min reqd is 25. Else, I can argue that Yuvaraj of Patiala (ave 60) is the best batsman of India ever, with Vinod Kambli at no. 3 (just after Tendulkar). I have more data points to prove that Kumble was a better batsman than Sourav in 2005, Taibu a better batsman than him as ccaptain ... although these are equally ridiculous things to say as that of Sourav being the best number 4. Similarly, if we consider the recent series in which Harbhajan scored two hundreds, taking just those tests, he is indeed the best batsman of India ... but all these fail when the tests are performed over a long period. Unless Sourav Ganguly scored better than all you have pointed out over significantly more number of innings than 20, you prove nothing in scientific terms.
    As for second innings scores, look at the number of insignificant not outs which have boosted his average.... point to note is that he, along with Sehwa, are the only batsmen without a 2nd innings hundred in wins ....
    But, a statistical analysis, although copied and dug out and inconclusive, is a step up for a dada-fan.

  17. Absolutely great article. And a most interesting discussion. In my opinion, the article is very balanced and points out the pros and cons of Ganguly to perfection.
    Hence, I would rather go with Freehit, Navillus and Zygote.
    @Souvik : Do you mean the presence of Dada batting at no. 5 ensured that Dravid and Tendulkar put a higher price on their wicket, because the wafer thin batting that was to follow? In that case, bang on - Dada did contribute to Indian wins with his bat.
    Sorry Sanjay, mujhe bhi gussa dilana ati hai ...

  18. nav, zyg and all logical minded cricket enthusiasts, i agree with the mediocre numbers pertaining to ganguly vis-a-vis OZ and SA but my point is that he was and still is miles better than those numbers would suggest in terms of sheer ability i.e., view is that he should have given up captaincy like Sachin and Dravid did the moment his batting started to plunge, which he did not and thus a huge loss for the spectators including me who love to see him caress a perfect ball thru a cordon of 8 off-side fielders to the fence without breaking a sweat. To me he will always be a case of so near greatness and yet so far...after all a captain is only as good as his team in most cases. I would bet that 90% of his fans are so because they love the timeless art in his batting and not how many runs he scored:-(

  19. Hey guys, I am unable to post simple comments here. I first wrote my entire comment in Notepad, then tried to copy-paste it here, when it told me that I can't use more than 4096 characters. So I split it into half, and posted the first half. Even then it appeared in a very disjointed manner, with plenty of gaps and spaces between lines where I haven't inserted one. Then when I tried to post the second half, it replaced the first half (as if I cannot post two consecutive comments). Please help! I am dying to vent my feelings here!

  20. Nice article, by the way. However, I would like to point out a number of things. Senantrix might have tried his best, but the article has ultimately been biased against Ganguly, intentionally or not. The article dwelt too long on the period 2003-2007, while the Ganguly India had got accustomed to is definitely the one from 1996-2003. He was a prolific ODI batsman, and a just good test batsman, but Senantrix had dealt only with the latter, to the near exclusion of his ODI exploits. True, test cricket is the ultimate test of a batsman, and it makes sense to attach paramount importance to one's achievements in this form of cricket, but when a batsman is primarily known as a ODI batsman, that is kind of injustice. I would soon post a similar article on Ganguly in my blog, where I hope I would be able to serve a better and balanced analysis. Nice article, again, Senantrix.

  21. Good Article but I didn't get one thing, why only test performance is used to measure one's contribution who is more familiar for his ODI credentials?

  22. First of all a good article, excellently written and unbiasedly analysed.
    However, a question for Senantix.
    After doing a commendable job in analysing Sourav Ganguly the batsman, why did you suddenly get stuck in the captaincy myth built around the man?
    To me, the supposed better overseas performances of India after 2000 had nothing to do with captaincy. Simply put, for the first time in the history of Indian Cricket, did we have batsmen like Sehwag, Sachin, Laxman and Dravid - 4 world class players who could bat like champions on bouncy tracks. Never before had Indian cricket been blessed with this sort of talent. Add to that the combined power of wicket taking of Srinath and Kumble. Do you mean to say that if Dravid or Kumble or Laxman had led the team, the results would have been different?
    Before this, India at best had 2 players in a team who could play pace bowling on bouncy wickets. Gavaskar and Amarnath (that too, Amarnath played well for just one series in 1982) , Vijay Manjrekar and Polly Umrigar (both had their weaknesses), Hazare and so on. The rest of the batsmen were pretty ordinary whenever the ball bounced. Just as Vengsarkar and Azharuddin lost all their form every time the action shifted to Australia.
    I would say that India did not win series against WI, Eng and did not win tests in SA till Dravid came at helm was because some pretty ordinary and inflexible captaincy. Dhoni is so successful now in spite of Dravid being nowhere near his 102 averaging super form and Kumble having retired. That makes him a much better captain and that is mainly because he focuses on the game rather than becoming a personality cult.
    Even when Tendulkar took the team to Aus in 1999, India fared poorly because apart from the captain who was breathtakingly brilliant, no other batsman had matured to their greatness (Laxman and Dravid). The opening batsmen failed to deliver.
    Why are we fixated with the make believe world that one man can make all the difference? What was that which Ganguly instilled into the team?
    The truth is far less dramatic and far more satisfying. Sachin, Laxman, Dravid and Sehwag together peaked and if that sort of talent starts delivering, anyone can lead the team to victories.
    Other than this, a pretty decent post.

  23. @Aniket, I have no objection if you overflow Dhoni with laurels, but don't downplay his legacy by comparing with Dhoni on basis of stats along. Firstly, you mentioned Srinath. In Ganguly's 20 test series as captain, Srinath rendered his services in 10 only, most of which he performed horridly. You should surely agree that Yuvraj and Zaheer, while occasionally showing gleams of talent until 2005, really started performing consistently just since, and way before Dhoni got to the helm (so don't ascribe their blooming to Guru Dhoni). A statistical look at yearwise performance for both Yuvraj and Zaheer will show you their performance from 2000-2005 and 2005 onwards. Is it Ganguly's vision that he realised that these players will eventually shine, or is it his fault that this eventuality he didn't live to enjoy as a captain, and it had blossomed big time when Dhoni became captain? You mentioned Sehwag. He wasn't consistent enough always, as he is now, and time and again he had to be dropped, and he was replaced by guess who- Bangar, Shivshundar Das, Jaffer, S.Ramesh, A.Chopra. Imagine these openers opening for India then, and Gambhir and a 10 year mature Sehwag opening now. Is it Ganguly's fault that there was no Gambhir then, and that often there was no Sehwag too to open the innings?

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  25. Is it Ganguly's fault that there was no Dhoni then, who while no great batsman, contributes those useful runs, and in his place rose a plethora of inepts like Ajay Ratra, Samir Dighe, M.S.K. Prasad? Can you imagine that India defeated England 1-0 in 2002, with a pace attack of Tinu Yohanan, I.R. Siddiqi and Sanjay Bangar, with openers Shivshundar Das and Deep Dasgupta? India were defeated by Lanka at their home-ground 1-2 in 2001, though he tried to salvage the first match loss by a brilliant 98 to win the 2nd and draw the series, but how can a captain sustain that when there is no Sachin, Laxman and Sehwag, and instead a team having Badani, Kaif, S.S. Das, S.Ramesh, Samir Dighe, Sairaj Bahutule and Harvinder Singh! Compare this team with the one that got whitewashed under Kumble in 2008 or the one which effected a 1-1 draw in 2010.

  26. Do you think Dhoni would have won half the matches he has had the openers been a combination of two from the ones mentioned above instead of Sehwag and Gambhir, and a wicketkeeper from the ones mentioned above instead of himself? How would it feel to being forced to play a bowler like Agarkar consistently even when his bowling average is 44 and strike rate is 85? And remember again, Zaheer Khan wasn't a transformed bowler then as he is now after 10 years of cricket: After 2005 he averaged 36 whereas now it has come down to 31. From 2000 to 2006 he had just 3 5-wicket hauls, whereas 7 more during 2007-2010. In ODI too, look at Dhoni, he has players like himself, Raina, Gambhir a rapidly rising Kohli, and here-too-a-more-mature Yuvraj. Can't believe me? Check it out, until 2005 Yuvraj avearged just 30 in ODI, while in the last 5-6 years it has risen to 38. In his time, wicket-keepers used to be Vijay Dahiya or Parthiv Patel, whereas it is Dhoni now, with an average of 50. He had captained India on too many matches with players like Badani, R.S. Sodhi, Sammer Dighe, Dinesh Mongia, Ajay Ratra. ICC mini WC final. HE led the way with a brilliant 117. But who will carry the baton? Look at the middle order- Yuvraj Singh (2nd match of his career), Vinod Kambli (averaging less than 25 for the last 6 years), Robin Singh, Vijay Dahiya. Whereas llok at 2001 WC final middle order- Yuvraj (after 10 years), Dhoni, Gambhir, Raina and Kohli.

  27. @Cupidvogel: I have no problems in recognising that Sourav Ganguly had a definite impact as a captain, but let us not overdo the hype. Senantix has pointed out that if you take away Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, his captaincy record becomes very average. But, he has not pointed out some obvious facts.
    Sourav did do a good job of leading the side, but I cannot swallow that with the team under him, Dravid or Sachin or anyone else would not get the same results.
    Look at Australia 2002-3. Sehwag, Dravid , Laxman and an out of form Sachin scoring 241 and 60 in the final test -anyone can win with this team.
    And give me a break! Sehwag scored 2500 runs under him at 52, more than he has scored under any other captain. Dravid averaged 102 in Sourav's wins. And no matter what Zaheer and others have done, no one can ever match the exploits with the ball of Anil Kumble. And Sourav even dropped him in favour of Harbhajan in a tour match. Don't tell me he did not have right players under him.
    And Yuvaraj has never won tests with his bat.
    MSK Prasad played under Sachin and not Dada.
    Harvinder Singh was another cricketer who played more under Sachin. So, please check your facts.
    Dighe, incidentally, won the series against Australia with a gutsy innings after some comical batting by the captain.
    Yes, I can very well imagine India beat England with the team you point out. With Sachin scoring 103, 90 and 88 in 3 tests, and Kumble and Harbhajan taking all the wickets, no other help is really needed. Azhar won series after series at home like that.
    You say Deep Dasgupta and Shiv Sunder Das were openers - yes, but Deep Dasgupta scored a century in Mohali in that series. And Das was consistent. Bangar too got a hundred. We can't put all of that to Sourav's genius. It was just an English attack that did not have it in them to exploit subcontinent conditions.
    The win against SL in SL - Dravid won the match with a masterly 75 long before Sourav ended things with 98 - whether it was brilliant or not is something left to fan or analyst. However, Ramesh too played a big part in the victory. And in the final test, Dravid was run out at a critical juncture and India lost the test. Guess who his partner was at that moment.
    Ganguly the captain is definitely a robust contributor in India's cricket history, but let us not fall in love with the myth.

  28. Plus we always tend to forget a big factor, that the cricket teams have undergone a startling metamorphosis during the last 3 years. Dhoni's team had defeated Australia 2-0 twice, but why does one fail to notice that it is as much a credit as it isn't, for Australia have lost the near-entirety of its side- Hayden, Langer, Gilchrist, Martyn, Mcgrath, Warne, Gillespie, and India having managed to keep the core intact (Dravid-Laxman-Sachin-Sehwag), it was a piece of cake to defeat a team with players like Siddle, Stuart Clarke, Kredga,Tim Paine, M.North, Hauritz and Hilfenhaus? Add to it a Ponting who for the last 3 years is averaging nearly 1/3rd of what he used to during 2002-06. This is not meant to detract from Dhoni's captaincy. A victory against Australia is always a big thing, but if one compares Ganguly with Dhoni so blatantly on stats, then why shouldn't these subtler aspects be taken into consideration? Consider Pakistan also. Whether in ODI or test (India yet to play one under Dhoni), look at their team- no Inzamam, Youhana, Shoaib (he is a gonner virtually) or Saqlain. Look at the team that battled India in 2003 WC- Anwar, Inzamam, Akram, Shoaib, Younis, whereas this time Mhd. Hafeez, Asad Shafiq, Kamran Akmal, Wahab Riaz. So is the case with England- they have retained some like Peterson, but lost Flintoff-Hoggard-Harmisson-Caddick-Gough-Trescothik. Why do you fail to recognize that Ganguly galvanised the team, beginning a transmogrification of the team with veterans like Dravid, Sachin, Laxman, Sehwag and Kumble and some odd youngsters, and by the time the team had blossomed, he was evicted from the helm (justifiably so), the other teams had imploded, and it was at this juncture that Dhoni took over, and things had been much easie since?

  29. You are making a moot point. If you say that "What Ganguly did as captain in the 2003-04 Aus tour, others could have done it too with the same team", I will say "What Dhoni did this WC, others could have done the same with this team". What has been done has been done, and no point in extrapolating permutations whether others could have done it or not. And sorry about M.S.K. Prasad. I mentioned his name amid the other keepers by mistake. But don't mention Dighe or Bangar please! Even the great Dinesh Mongia once scored a 159*, so does it mean that a team with him at no. 5 is the same as one with Dhoni (or Raina) at no. 5? Please don't compare Gambhir with them! And I didn't say that Sehwag averaged badly under Ganguly. What I said was because he was inconsistent initially, he often missed out on important tours like the WI tour of 2002, Lanka tour of 2001 or the home series against Australia and England in 2001. And for your information, cricket analysts much more profound than you (or me, for that matter) adjudged Ganguly MOM after that 4th innings 98* on a spinning Lankan track against Murali, so only hardcore Ganguly detractors (oh, there are millions) like you will call Dravid's 75 masterly (which of course it was) but his 98: "Ummm...Okay I guess". And if you say, India defeated England with Sachin's tons and Kumble's magic, nothing from Ganguly, well, I will say India won the WC due to Sachin and Zaheer, CB series due to Sachin, 2-0 against Australia due to Laxman and Sachin, T20 WC due to Yuvraj, blah blah blah, and so Dhoni had nothing to do about it! Will that make sense? Course it won't. How can a captain win if his players don't perform? And exactly my point, Azhar and others have won many series against England, Lanka or New Zealand at home. So has Dhoni. So what's the deal? Ganguly never had a series with Lanka or New-Zealand at home like Dhoni, which had he had, his record would have been much better, right? Under him, India won a test in Aus in 18 years and in England in 16 years.

  30. India defeated Africa at home in 2004 under Ganguly, whereas Dhoni's team effected a draw. Dhoni hasn't won a tour in Australia, Africa, Lanka, England, West Indies, Pakistan, but still has taken the team to number one! So is it his credit, or Ganguly's (and later Dravid and Kumble's), that he has got a team that has been going through a 5-6 year process and it reached its culmination just as he took over? Of course, I know he will win series in England and Australia. Now there is no Vaughan, Trescothik, Hoggard, Harmisson, Flintoff (if Anderson is there, Caddick isn't, and if Swann is there, Giles isn't). Similarly I mentioned Australia's and Pakistan's predicament. And Lanka, well, with Murali gone, can defeat be far behind? Only the African team has managed to remain intact, and so a draw both at Africa and home, plus a defeat in ODI series in Africa. And funny, when a team with so many below-standard players win a series against England, you say it's just okay, but when a team wins the T20 WC by fluke, you wax eloquent about the ineffable captaincy that engineered such a victory. Yes, you heard me right. FLUKE. Why? Look at the next two T20 WCs, a straight 0-6 record in Super-8 matches. So is the victory a result of brilliant captaincy? Please don't kid me! That is FLUKE for you. Again, don't take me as a Dhoni detractor (like as you are a Ganguly detractor, and you are quite poor at camouflaging, so don't try to pass yourself off as an unbiased critic). For winning, a captain must have a fair share of luck and thankfully, Dhoni has it. Ganguly didn't much have it, that's regrettable.

  31. @Cupidvogel: You are right. India did win the WC because of Sachin and Zaheer, but Dhoni's captaincy played a part as well.
    And please - Sourav Ganguly had the luxury of back to back series against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh for long - Dhoni has not had that advantage.
    No home series against NZ? Check again. NZ came and played in India during Ganguly's reign, and the result was DRAW - yes, DRAW. The only captain of India not to win a series against NZ at home.
    And check Sourav Ganguly's captaincy record in SA and NZ. Dhoni won in NZ and drew in SA. That too with Dravid averaging a third of what he did under Ganguly.
    Yes, I agree fully that Idnia won CB Series due to Sachin, and 2-0 against Aus due to Sachin and Laxman, just as they had won the home series in 2001 against Aus because of Sachin, Laxman, Dravid and Harbhajan.
    But, I stick to my point - Ganguly won because he had 4 batsmen who could play pace bowling on bouncy tracks. Dhoni is winning because he has a mature side and is a good captain. My point is Ganguly was never the great captain people make him out to be. In cricket, very few captains have made the difference with their strategy - and he was no Brearley or Mark Taylor.
    The best Indian captaincy I have seen in recent times has been by Rahul Dravid in WI. Where he won leading from the front with superb batting while missing Sachin and Sehwag in the team. But, then, since India under Dravid crashed out of the world cup, he is not considered a good captain.
    A lot of Indian cricket myths are created out of hype.
    And yes ... I agree that if someone like Gambhir was captaining the Indian side in the world cup, they may have won as well. As we should not be bowled over by Dhoni's record, we need to take Ganguly's so called transformation of the team with a pinch of salt.

  32. Believe me, one can take Ganguly's so called 'transformation' stuff with a pinch of salt and yet find it tasty enough to accord it considerable respect. Yes Ganguly won a number of matches against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, but I have never mentioned those series-es at all in my writings, for those victories are obviously not worth shit. You are constantly mentioning India won tests under Ganguly because of Sachin-Laxman-Dravid-Sehwag, why do you forget that Dhoni is winning under the banner of these players as well? Dravid has lost his prolific form? Well, can't you see Sachin and Laxman has found some? Look at their records over the last 3 years, when did Sachin score 7 tons a year? And India played only a single test in 2004 against the Kiwis at home, whereas Dhoni's team played 3, and managed to scoop only 1 victory against a team that was recently whitewashed by Bangladesh! You made a good point -good captain (of course. Dhoni is an excellent captain) and mature side. Well, why don't you understand that Yuvaj and Zaheer matured under Ganguly, just as Raina and Gambhir matured under Dravid and Kumble, and Dhoni has all these mature players along with the seniors in his team against teams that have lost their crux? Please don't mention the NZ tour. Just comapare the NZ bowling attacks in these tours! That tour, even Dhoni's ather couldn't have salvaged India. All players categorically lost their forms in that tour, worsened by a deadly bowling attack of Bond-Tuffey, coupled with minefields in the guise of pitches, whereas this time it was the innocuous attack of Martin (never much known for bothering batsmen), O'Brien and Franklin. I the Africa tour, I admit, India should have drawn, but I will always believe that a Zaheer Khan in sublime form is better than Agarkar, and an opening pair of Gambhir and Sehwag is slightly better than Deep Dasgupta and S.S. Das.

  33. Records and statistics... The Dada debate will always rage- the trick is to keep it away from regional jingoism. I come from Bengal, live in the UK and Dada made me feel belong to India, not to Bengal.

    Let's not deify the man..he was a good batsman, not great- who gave us some fabulous moments. Captaincy arguments aside, one thing he gave us as a nation was simply..belief. It doesn't make a difference what superstars one has in a team, it needs a leader to forge them together. I recall the Delhi and Bombay cliques and the divisive issues which dragged Indian cricket down...what Saurav gave us was a belief, a steel, a vibrant,aggressive India. He lifted Indian cricket after the dark days when Azhar, Jadeja and Prabhakar decided betting was a acceptable hobby to have.

    The debates will forever continue...history will always remember him as a good batsman second and a proud leader of men first. For that and that only, the man deserves respect. Not fawning, not adulation...just respect, albeit for some, in a begrudging form.

    Newton said the following line "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulder of giants". It could very well be Dhoni...and among those giants, Dada will always hold a place- however much we debate or analyse.

  34. The Newton quote was cool. Testifies to his modesty...LOL.

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  36. By the way, Partha, if you had hinted at me by that 'jingoism' bit, let me assure you that Ganguly has plenty of worshippers outside Bengal, so it doesn't make sense to call it jingoism if some Bengalee argues in his favour. And I never said he was a great batsman. He was a 'just good' batsman in tests (unfortunately test cricket is what which matters), and a great ODI batsman. Wisden didn't name him the 6th greatest ODI batsmen ever for no reason.

  37. @ Cupidvogel-None of the quotes aimed at you..I think you make some fabulous points as does Aniket. Jingoism is what local bengali rags get up to, not supporters.They are just passionate in their beliefs. Not dissimilar to any fans supporting their respective screen idol.
    Was he a great batsman? Maybe- maybe not. Either way, that's a more healthy debate to have rather than just denigrating someone.
    Some things can never be quantified in records, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. The record books say George Best didn't win a World Cup...those who have watched him say he was better than Pele or Maradona.
    India, as a country, has needed leaders, Dada was one- the statistics and records can say whatever it wants.

  38. @Aniket, Check out the stats of the 2002 WI tour, there too Ganguly led from the front throughout the series. In the match India won, he contributed a match-winning 75* in the 3rd innings (but because this time he didn't get the MOM, but Laxman got for his 74, I will keep mum if you call Laxman's 74 masterly and leave the brilliance of the 75 to analysts). But in the 2006 series, even with Sachin and Sehwag out, the others performed consistently, whereas in that tour, the openers failed miserably throughout the series, and Ajay Ratra bombed all through (except one innings, where he scored a ton) and Kumble played one and half match (he couldn't ball much because of a broken jaw). Remember it was Kumble who won the decisive match for India in 2006?

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  40. Thanks Partha. Exactly my point. Everything CANNOT be quantified. But since Ganguly's unceremonious dumping from ODI and forced retirement from tests, naysayers have taken it upon themselves to categorically disintegrate his achievements by comparing to someone who has got a thoroughly prepared mantle. Why can't they understand that while statistically Dhoni is ahead of Ganguly, it was the latter who added the elusive attribute to a team that had since long forgotten how to win tests outside India or win big ODI tournaments, and if anything, Dhoni's achievements are a culmination of what he began, but unfortunately couldn't survive long enough to savour the fruits?

  41. Cupidvogel, Aniket, Partha ...
    Thanks all of you. This is healthy argument where you debate about the game and the players without getting personal and heaping abuses on one another, which one sees in Cricinfo, Rediff and other comments forums. Unfortunately, Indian 'fans' do tend to get carried away.
    Cupidvogel, as you said, Dada did instill a quality of winning abroad that India had almost forgotten and that is exactly what I have pointed out.
    Aniket, yes, what you say is also true. India won because for the first time in its history, there were batsmen of the calibre of Sachin, Laxman, Dravid and Sehwag playing together. But, there is a slight contribution by Dada too, if only to let them concentrate on the game by handling inhouse and external bullies. However, that is my opinion. I have pointed out that he had a major share of success against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, but his record against Australia (as a captain) still remains good.
    Dhoni has been immensely successful and we should not take away any of his credit as a lot of people do by saying his success is because of Ganguly. That is simply not true, and if you see my latest post, it has been shown with statistics as well. Statistics do not tell the entire story, but does tell a lot, especially in a game like cricket which is full of data. Provided one can perform the inferences and does not limit oneself to tables and data. So, we need to accept the relevance of figures as well - else it becomes a never ending debate on intangibles which cannot be resolved.
    Cupidvogel, as you point out - Dada was a good batsman in Tests, not great. He was great in ODIs. That is what is borne out by the figures. And that is precisely my point in the post. However, if you look at some of the comments and also some of the mails that I have got in response to this article, there is a denial among his 'fans' that he was not really in the same league as the rest of the Indian greats in tests. One has to accept the bad as well as the good about the man.
    When you point out his 75 in WI, I take nothing away from it, but I would like to point out that in the winning test, Sachin scored 120 - as he has always contributed to Indian causes, that is often ignored and people go by the manufactured consent of his not being a match winner - another myth created by what Partha calls rags.
    That is also disproved in my latest post using statistics.
    Once again, thanks for a very healthy discussion.

  42. Partha. I agree with your comment that Dhoni took over from what Ganguly had built and carried on from there. However, the words of standing on the shoulders of giants is more appropriate to Sourav Ganguly, because he achieved his captaincy record because of the giants in his batting line up and Kumble-Srinath.
    We cannot ignore these giants.
    Newton also said that he was standing at the edge of the ocean of knowledge collecting pebbles. Sadly, Dada never has never been associated with such humility and would be more likely to say that he was owning the biggest island - while his fans believed the ocean resulted from his pee.
    Cupidvogel, please check the stats. Sourav scored 2 50s in a 5 match series in WI in 2002. Laxman, Sachin, Dravid, Jaffer, Ratra managed hundreds. You think that's leading from the front? I remember the last test, where WI won after setting India a target of 400 plus. Sachin was batting beautifully on 86, when he was bowled. The expression on Sourav Ganguly's face said it all. He knew he could not win it without Sachin, and was hoping he would finish it for him. When he was out, there was hopelessness all over his face. That characterised his reign. He depended on his batsmen. And it is natural. Every captain has to. So, we must accept his limitations.
    Partha- when Sachin was captain in 1999, the only other regular Mumbaikar in the team was Agarkar - and there were around 6 from Karnataka. So, I guess India had strapped herself off the regional cliques before Sourav's coming. Of course it was a gradual process. No team changes overnight. India coming out of regionalism and winning overseas coincided (not because of coincidence, though) because of the simultaneous peaking of Sachin, Dravid, Laxman and Sehwag. Whether Ganguly had anything to do with it or not is a matter of opinion. I think he did a good job as captain, but nothing as remarkable as is made out of it.

  43. @Aniket, Why are you constantly implying that Ganguly won matches because the batsmen clicked? Which captain can win a match if his batsmen doesn't perform well? Could Ponting have won two WCs if his batsmen didn't score runs? Or would Dhoni have accomplished what he has if Sachin or Laxman performed below par? Do you mean to say that in the matches won, Dhoni alone has scored 250 runs in each and taken 10 wickets? I guess not, but if you continuously raise the point that "Ganguly won because the batsmen clicked", it means that "Dhoni has won even though the other batsmen didn't click", which leaves no other alternative than Dhoni scoring all the runs. And please don't say that Dhoni would have been very relaxed had Sachin been out long before he piled 146 against Africa in the last test match. When other team members aren't getting runs, and somebody is, would it be unfair on a captain's part to expect that he will finish the match on himself? So if that is his 'limitation', it is so for every god-damned captain, be it Brearley or Dhoni, so please stop making such moot points like this or "Other captains could have also won...". And in the WI tour, Ganguly amassed 322 from 8 innings at an average of 54, without centuries or not. No century from Jaffer, as you mentioned. Throughout the series, the opening pair contributed these scores: (33,0), (10,9),(0,16),(0,12),(35,51), (3,86), (33,0),(10,7), while the wicketkeeper position scored: 0,0,2,1,13,115,3,19. Combined, 458 runs from 3 batsmen in a total of 24 innings. Stop giving faulty stats. And also desist from giving profundities like "He depended on his batsmen. And it is natural. Every captain has to." , but then calling it his limitation, as if Dhoni or Brearley won matches only when they themselves scored centuries. And I told you again, don't invoke Srinath. He served in 10 of his 20 series-es, in most of which he performed horridly, justifiably so, given he was past his prime. Compare with Zaheer, who is now on a role for the last 3 years after a 6 year spread. And please don't mention the "simultaneous peaking of the 4 batsmen" stuff. Those 4 batsmen are still present, add to it a prolific Gambhir and cucumber-cool Dhoni. So don't try to imply that Dhoni is "not riding on the giants", whereas you can't but accept that "Giants from many of the teams, including Pakistan and Australia have disappeared".

  44. There Cupidvogel, you have admitted that Dhoni is cucumber cool, something Dada never was.
    Compare their averages as captains, even laying aside Dhoni is a wicketkeeper.
    Please define a good captain for me, Cupidvogel.
    So, if Dhoni wins because of his team, Sourav wins because of his team, Dravid won because of his team - what esoteric captaincy quality are we talking about?
    Someone who wins matches as captain is definitely not one, because in that regard Sourav comes up short. Someone who scores runs while leading from the front is definitely not, because again Sourav Ganguly comes up short.
    I am not downplaying his achievements, just trying to understand your point of view. Or are you suggesting Sourav is better no matter what stats say, no matter what records are?
    And you have still not provided me with Dhoni's substitute for the greatest match winning bowler for India ever - Anil Kumble.

  45. @Cupidvogel and Aniket:
    You guys are doing an wonderful job keeping my page hits roaring ... but let me please remind you to keep your gloves up. Personal attacks below the belt are not okay here. There are Cricinfo and Rediff forums for that.
    Since the discussion is interesting, I would not like to moderate the comments, but please keep discussing the game and not each other.
    @Aniket: You place me in a dilemma. I generally moderate views that are too partisan, too personal or too irrational. However, although hard to overlook, your view of the ocean and the pebbles, with the interpretation of the fans was so hilarious that I can't bring myself to remove it. But, please limit your comments to the game.
    @Both: Sometimes it is difficult to convince people. We need to accept that and move on or we'll forever be plagued by the thoughts.

  46. Yes, I must admit that pebbles comment left me roaring with laughter. Well, let me answer you Aniket. As a test captain Ganguly won series in Pakistan, drew in England, West Indies, Australia, lost in Lanka, Africa and New Zealand. He couldn't win a series in Lanka. It's his fault, right? In the only match they won, he contributed a "brilliant" 98. Throughout the series, there were no Sehwag, Gambhir, Sachin, Laxman, Kumble or Dhoni. Playing a team with openers like Ramesh and S.S. Das, middle order Kaif, Badani and Dighe, with Sairaj Bahutule in place of Kumble, how can you expect the team to win? Dhoni's total brigade went to Lanka last year and effected a draw, how can one lay the blame on the captain when he can't do the same with a team as that? When Dhoni will go there next year and win, you will come roaring with profuse words of wisdom, while conveniently forgetting that Murali is gone. In the series-es in England, West Indies and Autralia, he contributed quite commendably, if not as prolifically as Dravid, with the bat- 322 from 8 innings averaging 54 in WI, 351 from 6 innings at 59 in England, 284 from 6 innings at 48 in Australia (including that tonic of a 144 at Brisbane). In the one innings he managed to play in Pakistan, he notched 77. He failed to deliver in New Zealand and South Africa, will that alone determine that he never contributed as batsman? Post 2003, he lost form, and nobody is denying that, so why contaminate his exploits for 7 years (plus 2 years later) with 2.5 years of underperformance?
    Until 2003 his ODI avg was about 44, so why harp incessantly on his batting during 2003-05 only? And if you cannot accept that a team having those openers and a wicketkeeper whose combined average throughout a foreign tour is sub 20 should win the series courtesy some Houdini stuff by the captain, well, it certainly requires the esoteric attributes which somehow tends to elude him.

  47. Again Aniket, I never said anything bad about Dhoni, what I said was it would be grossly unfair to compare his captaincy with Ganguly's on raw stats alone. There are so many parameters. Why do one fail to recognize that the Austrlia team Dhoni crushed 2-0 twice, or the one they defeated in the WC is but a mere spectre of what they were in Ganguly's time? Imagine a team with Mcgrath replaced by Philip Siddle, Gillespie by Hilfenhaus, Warne by Jason Kredga, Hayden by Watson, Gilchrist by Haddin, Langer by Katich, Symonds by North and a Ponting averaging 1/3rd of what he used to in those years. Or a Pakistan team in the WC with Anwar, Inzamam, Akram, Shoaib, Younis in place of Mohammad Hafeez, Asad Shafiq,Kamran Akmal, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz. Or a New Zealand tour without minefields of pitches that left either team's batting imploding throughout the test and ODI series, worsened by the lethal bowling of Shane Bond and Tuffey, compared to a bowling attack of Vincent and Chris Martin. Or a Sri Lanka henceforth sans Malinga, Vaas or Murali, to be spearheaded by Kulasekara. Why can't you see that the odds are astronomically stacked against Ganguly in this comparison? That the other teams are undergoing a metamorphosis, and Dhoni's team is teeming with players who went through that metamorphosis before his taking over the helm (Gambhir, Yuvraj, Zaheer, Raina)? During Ganguly's reign, all teams were at their peak, so he managed a record of 14-12. Why don't you look at the records of India in England, WI, Australia, Africa during 1985-2000 to understand the transformation he engineered, which gathered fruition after his eviction and after the teams started disintegrating? Yuvraj started firing like he does post 2005 after 5 years of slogging. His average during those 5 years was 21,23,36,31,30, whereas post 2005 it is 42,53,46,39,39,32 and 51. Zaheer averaged 37 in tests until 2006, with 3 5-wicket hauls in 6 years, whereas now he averages 32, with 7 5-wicket hauls in the last 3 years alone. Add to it Raina and Gambhir who were vying for a position in the team since 2005 and by the time Dhoni took over, were consistent enough. Is it Ganguly's vision that he knew that Zaheer and Yuvraj will eventually shine, or is it his fault that this eventuality he didn't live to enjoy as captain?

    And yes, Kumble was certainly a BIG factor. But compare it to an opening pair of Sehwag and Gambhir (remember all the important tours I pointed out Sehwag missed?), a Dhoni in place of Dighe, a Zaheer Khan on a role after 6 years since, and you will find that it is more than compensated.

  48. @Senantix, Your page hits will soar even more. I have recommended this site to many of my friends. And indeed you are right, it IS difficult often to convince people, as both I and Aniket are understanding right now!

  49. @Cupidvogel: Many of what you say is true. Dhoni had some gains and losses when he inherited the team. Ganguly had some gains and losses when he was captain in terms of quality of players. My point is that they balance each other out. Just as Kumble balances a resurgent Zaheer and all other bowlers put together, Rahul Dravid in prime form balances out Gambhir's induction - more than that. And Dale Steyn balances out the departure of Glen McGrath. In cricketing history, things generally even out.
    After balancing out Dhoni is ahead at the moment, and his lead is very very significant. Senantix showed in his analysis of captains - if you look at the p-value and test of hypothesis, they are slightly difficult to understand for people without statistics background - and I don't have one. But, as far as I understand, the tests of hypothesis that he performed are to see whether there is a chance for the difference in records to happen just by chance or they are significantly different to indicate that they are completely different data sets. And among Sourav, Dravid and Dhoni, only Dhoni's captaincy comes out to be significantly different. Look at the p-values and the inference - because sites like cricinfo show us comparisons of averages and nothing more, which tells us nothing.
    Again if you look at Senantix article on the comparative stats of the fab 5, he shows with tests of significance that in both normal matches and won matches, Sachin and Dravid contributed far more with the bat and Ganguly was behind the rest.
    That is not to undermine him, but he does lag behind as far as his batting stats in TEST CRICKET go.
    We can argue about his captaincy record forever, but we won't reach anywhere, because as we both have realised it is difficult to convince people. Let us say we keep this on hold and argue again 2 years down the line - seeing what Dhoni accomplishes in another 15-20 odd tests. An interesting thing to note will be what he accomplishes after Dravid, Sachin and Laxman retire.
    All I want from fans like you, Cupidvogel, is that please don't start supporting opponents just because you want Ganguly's record to look better. I am not specifically indicating you, but there are many who do just that.

  50. @Aniket, Steyn does not cancel out Mcgrath. He and Morkel cancel out Pollock and Ntini, and to some extent Donald, whom India had to play in 2000 and 2001. In cricket, things ultimately even out, that's true, there's no loftier aphorism. But time is the implicit factor there. Dhoni's devils are going through a dream run as much because of their playing abilities as for the disintegration of other teams. Isn't it so very easy to retain your former players, gather new ones who have matured over the last few years to defeat a team of Siddle-Hilfenhaus-Hauritz-North-Haddin as compared to Mcgrath-Warne-Hayden-Langer-Gilchrist, or Shafiq-Hafeez-Gul-Akmal compared to Anwar-Inzamam-Akram-Younis-Shoaib, or a pair of Vincent-Martin compared to Bond-Tuffey. Again that's not Dhoni's fault, he is doing what he can-win, but that's that. Don't try to demean Ganguly by comparing him with Ganguly in terms of raw statistics. I don't understand the p value stuff, but sure as hell understand that those measures don't take into account what I have pointed out- that all the teams are disintegrating, players who have played since 2000 and matured since 2005-06, new players vying for a position since 2005 and now reaching their peaks, these luxuries Ganguly never enjoyed, because he was the one who prepped the youngsters who are now bearing fruit, that too from a situation where India have completely forgotten to win outside, and that too when other teams were having their peaks. So please don't compare a 14-12 run with a 13-3 run, but just scoop inside to have a look at the inside story.

  51. And of course when the holy trinity retires, India will fall into a state of predicament. They will fall into an all time low, no doubt. It would be of course unfair to compare Ganguly with Dhoni then on basis of that, because Ganguly never won matches without their help, but not more unfair than denigrating him against Dhoni on basis of stats without going subtle. But I do believe that India will still do good under Dhoni, and he is one hell of a captain, period. If you say he is a better captain than Ganguly, I have no objection, but like I said, don't compare records to measure one against the other for you-now-know-what reasons. And I will always know that Ganguly was lagging in test cricket when compared to his peers (so no need to point out that to me), but nobody can't gainsay that he was a phenomenal ODI batsman. Like I said, Wisden didn't choose him the 6th greatest ODI batsman without reason.
    And please, how can you expect that I will support other teams to make Ganguly look better! Perhaps nobody in India shouted himself hoarser at joy than me when India lifted the WC. I have nothing but absolute support for Dhoni the captain, and I hope that he will take India to higher peaks. So let's put our debate on hold. AMEN.

  52. @Cupidvogel and Aniket : It's great to see you guys have called truce for the time being.
    I followed your argument closely, and had a great time.
    Aniket: Sourav Ganguly did lead for 49 tests and even if we take away Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, he did a reasonably good job and we cannot take the credit away from him.
    Cupidvogel: I am a bit confused with your 2003 to 2005 slump of Ganguly. The entire problem that people have with him is that from 2000 to 2006, he played 58 tests and averaged 35. His Test Match slump lasted for 6 years apart from the select one off innings once in a while.
    And as a captain, he averages less than the following players (I am not talking of Ponting, Dravid, Sachin, Lara, Steve Waugh, Smith or other batsmen) ... he averages less than Shaun Pollock, Imran Khan, Dhoni and goes neck and neck with Taibu in Tests. Batting was not the key skill of these people, for heaven's sake, and they upstaged one so called great middle order batsman of India. So, if you say he led from the front, at least in Test Cricket that is not believable.
    He also ended the so called dream last stretch of his career with an average of 35 in 2008. So, I don't know whether we will have a delicious taste or not, the pinch of salt is very necessary when we discuss about him.
    Having said that, we must respect him for his contributions to Indian cricket.

  53. Thanks Navillus for the insight. The pinch of salt is required all right, but not for Ganguly alone, for everyone, and in Senantix's other blog about Dravid, where he waxed so lyrical about Dravid, how come you didn't provide the required pinch that it's high time other juniors are considered for Dravid following that he averaged 35 in 2007 and 30 in 2008, whereas Ganguly in his "dream-run" in 2007 averaged 61 and in 2008 35, while contributing the 87 that helped India level the series against Africa? Also why didn't I hear your share of pinch when Dravid averaged 42 in 2010, scoring a ton against Bangladesh, and tons against an effete Bangladesh-whitewashed New Zealand and a total failure in Africa? Each and every player played horrendously in Lanka, so why was it that Ganguly who was about to be axed when he top scored for the team just in the previous series against Africa, scored 1200 runs just the previous year, including a match saving 239 that rescued India when she was reeling at 61/4, and following it up with other big scores to notch 500+ in that tour to get the Man of the Series? Why not the same pinch for Laxman and Dravid as well, both of whom averaged sub 40s (Dravid in fact averaged sub 25s) in that tour? And by the way, he averaged 41,66 and 45 in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Add to it the performances I said he did in the foreign tours, you will find that it's reasonably commendable, if not highly impressive. He averaged poorly in 2000, 2001 (which he made up in the next 3 years, as you can see from the averages above) and 2005-06, after which I have said that he was justifiably dumped. And I never said that he is 'great test batsman' as you kindly pointed out, but what I said that he was a great ODI batsman, and in spite of the slump, he averaged about 44 until 2004 (being the fastest to reach the 6k, 7k, 8k and 9k milestones during these years, ahead of SACHIN, PONTING, LARA, KALLIS, DRAVID, WAUGH), after which of course his abilities deteriorated alarmingly. So delicious or not, whatever 'wall' be other articles posted on, be sure to include the pinch for other cricketers as well, for it is "very necessary" for all, not for Ganguly alone.