Ganguly is the best of the current lot in cricket

Written by: Arjuna Ranatunga
Published: Thursday, August 11, 2005, 16:00 [IST]
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Somehow, I also feel drawn into the captaincy debate currently on in India. Should it be Sourav Ganguly or Rahul Dravid? One is proven, the other has promise. One is charismatic, the other low-profile but all substance. Who is the one we are looking to lead India into the next World Cup?

We in Sri Lanka too are handling the captaincy issue in our own way. I, as head of the cricket committee, strongly feel we should make up our mind and appoint a captain for the next two years. A captain needs to be in control of things to manage men and matters and put strategies and methods in place. India should also look to have a leader for a longer period. Half measures will not work.

I start with my impressions about Ganguly. I have known him for long and feel he is the best of the current lot in world cricket. He is imaginative and backs talented youngsters. I used to do the same when I was at the helm. I remember Chaminda Vaas needed a dose of confidence every now and then when he started.

I am also not convinced about the two theories doing the rounds in India, that a captain's life on the shelf is only for four or five years and that Ganguly is not good enough to hold his position in the team as a batsman.

Again, I will go to my example to stress the point. I captained Sri Lanka for nearly 10 years and am absolutely convinced my best came in the final five or six years. Thefirst 3-4 years were spent in learning and was possibly defensive. So, Ganguly's longevity should not be held against him. It is not his fault if he has been successful. You don't shoot a horse in the leg when he is still serviceable.

Another issue is about his batting. I don't think Ganguly is finished as a batsman. He might not be as high-scoring as he was a few years ago but only the other day he completed his 10,000 runs in One-day cricket and is the youngest of the four others to do so. He can hold his position in the team and he still has a healthy average.

Let us now look at the issue from Rahul Dravid's perspective. He has lately emerged as India's best batsman in both forms of cricket: I don't think there is any room for argument on this score. His dedication and commitment to his team is exemplary. He is rock-solid and can inspire the men around him.

Dravid is also pretty selfless. He was the strongest pillar on whom Ganguly rose to great heights as captain. We in Sri Lanka do it all the time. Even as Marvan Atapattu is emerging as a capable leader, you would see a Sanath Jayasuriya helping him with field settings in the first 15 overs. A Muralitharan is always talking to the bowlers and giving them ideas. Sharing the burden is a sign of a happy, trusting team.

Dravid has not done badly as captain in the tournament. He reacted to situations quickly and offers promise. His supporters of course would like him to be at the helm as he is33 and it is now-or-never for him. In two years' time, it might be too late for him. I have not seen enough of him as captain to pass a judgment. But it is difficult not to like him. He needs time to adjust.

If I could offer advice, I would ask Indian media and a few motivated officials to stop fishing in troubled waters. Your agendas can wait in matters of national importance. Cricket brings happiness to multitudes, our masses identify strongly with the cricket heroes and their performance. Let the best men and leaders be there on the field. Your personal choices should have no role. I know how Indian media could fall into that north-west or east-south trap.

Selectors too should be men of integrity and be able to look themselves in the mirror in the morning. I have always been against this zonal representation among selectors. Letthe best four selectors, even if they are from one state, choose the team of India. In Sri Lanka, government has interfered in the matters of cricket and in the new cricket hierarchy, you would see better results. It is good to get rid of the baggage of previous cricket officialdom.

Those who matter in Indian cricket must decide whether they want a short or long-term plan. If it is long term investment, they need to look at things dispassionately. They need not gloss over the tardy fielding or the place of a few seniors in the One-day context. If India is looking for a place in at least the semi-finals of the next World Cup, they need to bring out the surgeon's scalpels now.

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