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Published: Friday, June 15, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
India's tour of Sri Lanka
[an error occurred while processing this directive]Kandy (Sri Lanka): Time is running out for Saurav Ganguly as he faces a critical two-week period that could determine his future as India's cricket captain and as a Test batsman.Ganguly, clearly shaken by the 10-wicket defeat against Sri Lanka in the first Test, must not only regroup his injury-ravaged team in the two remaining back-to-back Tests but also overcome his poor form to silence a growing band of critics.If he fails on both fronts, there is widespread speculation that Ganguly could well lose both the captaincy and his place in the team for the upcoming tour of South Africa.Just five months ago, Ganguly was the undisputed king of Indian cricket after masterminding a thrilling 2-1 series win at home over world champions Australia. If his popularity ratings have dipped, the Bengal Tiger has to look no further than the mirror on the wall in his hotel room.The runs have dried up from the blade of the stylish left-hander, who burst onto the scene in 1996 with a century on debut in England.Ganguly has not crossed 50 in his last 12 Test innings, the silken cover drives giving way to tentative jabs outside the off-stump that reek of a lack of self-belief.Worse, his constant brush with match referees around the world and speaking his mind on selection matters has not gone down well in the corridors of power in Indian cricket.Influential Indian cricket official Raj Singh Dungarpur believes the time is ripe to dump Ganguly and look elsewhere, possibly vice-captain Rahul Dravid taking over for South Africa."Time is running out for him and Saurav knows it," Dungarpur said. "Dravid could lose form too. But at least in temperament he will give no reason for complaint."The successive losses against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka have hurt Ganguly badly, and he knows it. "Leading India is a difficult job," Ganguly said as he prepared for the second Test starting on Wednesday."After all, it's the peoples' emotions that determine where you stand. On top one day, rock bottom the next. It's scary..." Ganguly has won five of his nine Tests as captain, but circumstances suggest the next victory could be a long time away.India, a mediocre Test side at the best of times, look positively harmless for the rampaging Sri Lankans in the absence of five top stars, including master batsman Sachin Tendulkar.As if the injuries to Tendulkar, Venkatsai Laxman, Anil Kumble and Ashish Nehra were not bad enough, Ganguly was dealt a body blow when pace spearhead Javagal Srinath was ruled out for the rest of the series with a fracture in his left hand."It's all a mess, but I can't allow my shoulders to droop," the beleaguered Indian captain said. "That won't send the right signals. "All I know is that we must fight back. We have to."Ganguly also realises he must get back among the runs fast to keep the hawks at bay. "I accept that only runs in the next two Tests will make a difference," he said."I am determined, I am trying everything possible... it's just that I am not getting a start."Critics have not spoken about the bad decision Ganguly received in the first innings of the Galle Test. But they did not fail to notice that his main rival to the throne, Dravid, struck form with a defiant half-century in the second innings.