Short-pitched stuff has Ganguly hopping
Published: Monday, November 12, 2001, 20:19 [IST]
India's South African Safari
East London (South Africa): Indian skipper Saurav Ganguly's vulnerability to short- pitched deliveries is no secret. At least not here, with bowlers already baying for his blood and vowing not to allow Ganguly to repeat his One-day onslaught in the remaining two Tests. Ganguly tore the South African bowling apart in the One-dayers smashing huge sixes and unleashing a flurry of fours. But the Indian captain was visibly uncomfortable in both innings in the first Test at Bloemfontein and is being subjected to sneers by those who would love to see his downfall. Graeme Pollock, arguably one of the two best left-handed batsmen the game has seen along with Sir Gary Sobers, is candid in his opinion. "It is not difficult to see he has a problem. He has been successful in One-day cricket, but this is a different situation. He has played most of his cricket where there is no bounce. "He must pull or hook or get out of the way. But then hooking is a dangerous stroke and so he must learn to get out of the way," he said. It is a view, which is seconded by former South African fast bowler Fanie de Villiers. "He has got to get used to it. He has to adapt and do something. There are only two ways to get used to it - either attack or be defensive. Either you get under it, duck it or you attack it. Obviously, the route to attack is more dangerous and so he has to learn to duck under it." Two other South African greats, Kepler Wessels and Dave Richardson, sing no different tunes. Wessels said, "He has got a weakness and he knows it. But then he has to lead from the front. He has to get behind the line of the ball and fight all the way. He should not let his weakness be seen by the bowlers." Richardson showed more empathy than others on the issue. "It can be said that he hasn't become accustomed to top pace on these wickets. But then South African batsmen too can look uncomfortable against short-pitched stuff. But yes, he has to work on his technique, how to get underneath it and learn how to drop his hand." Criticism is not new to Ganguly but he has been targeted more often ever since he donned the skipper's mantle last year. His Test record during this period has not helped Ganguly's cause - 12 Tests, 536 runs at an average of 28.21. He has not hit a hundred in this spell and has had only two fifties. Also it is an awkward sight to see him fending deliveries aimed at his rib-cage and twice in Bloemfontein was out to balls aimed at his body. Critics have lost no time in branding him a batsman who does not like fast bowling. "It is not Saurav alone. Everybody is scared of fast bowling anyway. But I don't think he is scared. He just needs to work on his technique," Richardson said. "He has to stand up to it and stay in line. Be more determined. Steve Waugh gets hit regularly but then he hasn't done badly. Sachin Tendulkar too gets hit but then look at his performance. After sometime bowlers too get tired. He just has to back himself," he said. Ganguly has lasted the grind of international cricket for five years before being singled out for his apparent uneasiness against short-pitched deliveries. Despite his failures lately, he still is averaging 42 plus per innings, which is a better record than any South African batsman, Gary Kirsten and Jacques Kallis included. "There is little doubt in my mind that he is a class player," Graeme Pollock said. "There is no reason why he can't overcome this problem. He is probably aware of what he could be doing and what should be done. Past players have done and he could also do it." Ironically Ganguly, since becoming captain, has been in roaring form in One-day internationals. In 48 One-day internationals, he has scored more than 2000 runs with seven hundreds and 11 fifties and averages a staggering 47 plus. This gap in averages in One-dayers and Tests have made critics slam Ganguly and term him only a One-day player. Ganguly did not want to comment on this but quipped, "I have scored runs in this series and the world has watched it." De Villiers said if Ganguly was scared of getting hit, he should not worry about it too much. "Lot of tailenders get hit. I have been hit so many times during my career. He should also be ready to take the punishment. I think he can do it because he is a good enough player." Wessels also discounted suggestions that Ganguly was scared of the rising ball. "I don't think he is scared. It is more of a technical problem. He just has to work on it."