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Published: Wednesday, July 24, 2002, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi: A poor run with the bat has put Saurav Ganguly under tremendous pressure as the Indian skipper takes on England in the six One-dayers, but experts caution it would be premature to write him off now.Opinion is divided on whether he should be retained as captain if he does not do well in the One-day series starting Saturday but some of the leading former players are of the view that he should not be finally judged on his performance against England particularly with the 2003 World Cup looming large."It would be a stupid act to axe Ganguly from his captaincy with just about a year to go for the World Cup. It is premature to talk about another failure. And I do not think he has fared badly as a captain," former captain and coach Ajit Wadekar said.Another former coach and Test opener Anshuman Gaekwad felt the same. "We should continue with him for some more time even if he fails to get the big runs against England. He is such a brilliant batsman... one big innings will see him through this bad patch."Former India opener Navjot Singh Sidhu was more diplomatic. After saying that "sometimes a break can give a player the insight and power to overcome his shortcomings" Sidhu quickly added he was not suggesting a break for Ganguly."I think he should continue both as a player and as captain. He is a very dedicated sportsman and I am sure he will come out of this crisis," he said. But everyone agreed that Ganguly's poor run with the bat had been continuing for an unusually long time for a player of his calibre. The man whose silky drives and the gift of timing made him one of the most elegant left-handers in the world has suddenly found runs dry up in the last two years.After taking over as captain, Ganguly has averaged 28.26 in 16 Test matches with only three scores over fifty. He has done better in the 38 One-dayers, averaging 44.31 with five centuries and nine fifties but has been extremely inconsistent.Two of those centuries came on the South African tour in 2001 and Ganguly has already said he is banking on those performances to boost his confidence in the coming series. But the failures in the Test series against England and the Challenger series is staring him in his face and this might well be a do-or-die battle for him."The form in which he is now, he has no place in the team. He can't live on past performances," said former captain Bishen Singh Bedi. "But I still feel that he is too good a player to go out this way." Some others felt that the pressures of captaincy were affecting his batting. "Captaincy does have a bearing (on a player's performance). It is a lot of burden," former opener Chetan Chauhan said. Former India player Yashpal Sharma said Ganguly should voluntarily relinquish captaincy and concentrate on his batting the way Sachin Tendulkar did. "Just look at the kind of performances Tendulkar has given after that."Ganguly should follow in Tendulkar's footsteps. He should start afresh like a newcomer trying to cement his place in the side," Sharma said. Ganguly has been particularly uncomfortable against short-pitched deliveries and the outswingers and has repeatedly got out to such balls, a weakness that has been exploited by bowlers the world over.Sidhu felt repeated dismissals in the same fashion had dented the confidence of Ganguly and he was not playing his natural game. "Of late he is wanting to go on the backfoot instead of his natural forward movement," he said. "He has to discover his natural game to get out of this difficult situation."Selection Committee chairman Chandu Borde tried to put an end to the speculations over Ganguly's captaincy. "I don't know who is spreading all such talk (of his replacement). Of course, no one is happy with his form. He himself is not happy and trying his best to regain his touch."I think we should let him concentrate on his job by not talking about it," he said. PTI