Parellels between sacking of Ganguly and Wadekar

Published: Tuesday, November 22, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Mumbai:Sourav Ganguly, like another left- handed stylist three decades before him, found out today that an enviable record as captain does not guarantee a longer stay at the helm.

Prior to Ganguly, who was sacked as Test captain today by the national selectors who elevated his long-time deputy Rahul Dravid to the throne, it was Ajit Wadekar's turn to face the music in the aftermath of the inglorious "Summer of 42".

Wadekar, who was handed over the Indian captaincy by then chairman Vijay Merchant's casting vote before the national squad's historic tour of the West Indies in 1971, was greeted with stones and abuses just three years later after a 0-3 drubbing at the hands of England in 'Old Blighty'.

The Mumbai left hander, who had to wait for six years after making waves in domestic cricket to make his Test debut against Gary Sobers' almighty West Indies oufit in 1966, was forced to call it a day by the powers that be in the Indian Cricket Board in 1974 to appease public sentiment.

Wadekar had experienced first hand the fickle nature of the Indian fans and accepted his fate without a murmur of protest when the tide turned against him.

The same public sentiment was overwhelmingly in favour of the graceful left handed batsmen when he returned home with the Indian squad after leading it to a first-ever series win in England in the summer of 1971.

However, the same set of people in his hometown (Mumbai) and home environs (Shivaji Park) were seething with anger and hurled stones at his house after India's abysmal show in the 1974 Test series in England, especially after it crashed to 42 in one innings, the country's lowest Test score till date.

A line-up boasting of cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar and another all-time great Gundappa Visvanath appeared clueless when confronted by a wet summer in England and against asuperb England swing and seam attack comprising Chris Old, Geoff Arnold and Mike Hendrick.

There were also reports of in-fighting within the team and rebellions and it was one of the worst times in the long history of Indian cricket.

The selectors, then, gave back the mantle of captaincy to one of India's most successful skippers and, arguably its finest, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, when he was well past hisbest as a batsman to take on Clive Lloyd's strong West Indies outfit in the next Test series played at home.

Pataudi captained the side brilliantly, after it was down 0-2 following losses in the first two Tests, to level the rubber 2-2 before Lloyd and company won the deciding six-day Test at the newly built Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai to take home the closely fought rubber 3-2.

The former Nawab then stepped down from captaincy as well as announced his retirement to pave the way for Bishen Singh Bedi to take on the reins.

A parellel with what happened then and the sacking of Ganguly now can be seen because the latter's fall from grace followed his public spat with coach Greg Chappell - thoughGanguly, unlike Wadekar, had returned triumphant from his last Test series as captain in Zimbabwe.

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