Kolkata: Stylish Saurav Ganguly, who has been retained captain of the Indian cricket team for the ensuing South African tour, faces his toughest challenge not only as a leader, but also as a batsman when his team leaves the country in one of its most difficult trips in recent times.
Struggling with his batting form, Ganguly will be saddled with the additional responsibility of leading a team, which has been traditionally suspect on fast and bouncy tracks over the years. On the positive side, the Indian captain will have the valuable services of 'master blaster' Sachin Tendulkar who missed the Sri Lankan tour following a toe injury. Tendulkar's presence will serve as a stabilising factor in the batting line-up, which failed miserably in Sri Lanka. The probable return of leg spinner Anil Kumble and speedster Javagal Srinath will bring a smile on his face, as it will strengthen the bowling resources against the formidable South Africans. But Ganguly himself is aware that a captain has to lead from the front and has to score a lot more runs to consolidate his position at the helm. After a string of indifferent performances with the willow, any further failure may put a question mark on his future as the skipper. The national selectors, who met here on Thursday morning, have retained him captain only for the South African tour apparently putting him on trial yet again. Ganguly must get the message and deliver before it's too late. The news of the local hero being retained as captain brought a sigh of relief among cricket buffs here, many of whom were scared that the 'Prince of Kolkata' could lose his crown. "It is the right decision by the selectors. He definitely deserved the chance. Whatever the performance of the team, his (Ganguly's) performance as a leader has been wonderful", former national selector Sambaran Banerjee told PTI here. Banerjee felt that a captain should be given a longer tenure instead of being put on trial for each and every series. "I have always felt that a skipper must be given a longer tenure. When I was the selector, I had always emphasised on this point", he said. The former selector said "a captain grows in confidence if he is given a longer tenure and can put his stamp of authority on the team. The captain needs some time to learn", he added. Banerjee, who captained Bengal in the Ranji Trophy, felt that the selector's decision to retain Ganguly as the captain for the South African tour only could put the left-hander under immense pressure. "It may affect his batting form. But I am sure he will come out of this bad patch". He said that appointment of a new captain for the arduous tour of South Africa will in no way have benefitted the Indian team. Another former cricketer Gopal Bose also echoed Banerjee's views saying that Ganguly was the 'obvious choice' and the best man to do the difficult job of captaining the Indian team.