Friday, October 02, 2009

The curious case of Sourav Ganguly

(Also on
Isn’t it time we stopped big cricketers from treating the Ranji Trophy like it’s their personal fiefdom?
Yes, it’s true that (a) the Ranji Trophy isn’t as important as it used to be, (b) it’s not even the benchmark for domestic excellence, with the IPL a more reliable make-the-grade-for-national-selection tournament now, and (c) smaller, less starry teams are happy to get their grubby hands on as many stars as they can.
But, let’s take the case of Sourav Ganguly. He (a) is not an international cricketer anymore, (b) spends more time trying to become a Cricket Association of Bengal administrator, (c) spends the rest of his time hosting game shows, and (d) is trying to end his career with one last splash in the third season of the IPL. And, frankly, he doesn’t give a fig about the Bengal Ranji team.
Despite all that, to the people of Bengal and the Bengal cricket team, he is the one-man selling point – the biggest name the cricket-crazy state has ever produced. If you could read Bengali, you’d know that the press there hasn’t covered the Indian team for the past decade-plus, they have covered their Dada; a Tendulkar century is usually relegated to second place when Dada makes a double-digit score. Which is why, he can avoid playing in the Ranji Trophy for years, but find a place at his preferred batting slot when Greg Chappell chucks him out of the team and he wants to make a comeback. Or now, when he is clearly not in any kind of shape or match practice, he is able to get into the team to prepare himself for the IPL.
I don’t mean to single out Ganguly here; he is just a case in point. Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan – all of them are in on the Ranji game too. Their state teams are mere net practice options.
Their one-point excuse: they never have time to play with their state teams when representing India. Alright, but why not practice with the boys the rest of the time? At least, then you are, at some level, a part of the set-up.
Is that what state-level cricket is about? Shouldn’t there be some sort of selection criterion even for big stars when it comes to the Ranji Trophy?
So let’s assume that a senior cricketer who has just been dropped from the Indian team or been left out because of injury is good enough for the state team. That’s fine. But let’s return to Ganguly. On form, he shouldn’t be part of any of the IPL teams. He is not a ‘player’ anymore and has probably not hit the nets in ages now (it shows around his mid-section too). He retired from international cricket because he was spent. At this stage, what makes him good enough to play for Bengal?
And worse, what makes him good enough to come out and say “I’ll play the Ranji Trophy to get in shape for the IPL” without the Bengal selectors even having a think about the option?
Fiefdoms, anyone?