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November 10, 2008 / lazybug

End of two eras

Today effectively marks the end of two eras in test cricket.

The first, which we were informed was coming, is the Sourav Ganguly era. A 12-year career during which he transformed Indian cricket’s laid back, take-what-comes approach in to a  go-out-there-and-get-it one. India’s aggressive nature of cricket owes its origins to the captaincy of Ganguly. Coming on the heels of the horrendous match-fixing scandal and the resignation of Sachin Tendulkar from the captaincy (following a 2-0 whitewash at home against the South Africans) Ganguly turned the team’s low morale on its head. He captained the team in the 5-match ODI series that followed and won it. In the tournaments to follow, India would display the sort of aggression that was very unlike any team from the sub-continent and definitely unlike any soft-spoken Indian team to have played cricket before. Youngsters got their chances and most of  them justified the selection. Ganguly was effectively supported by coach John Wright and vice captain Dravid. This helped to a form a deadly mix of youth and experience working in great coordination.

At its peak, Ganguly’s eleven would take the best team in the world head-on in both Tests and ODIs. And win a lot, though not everything. The team’s greatest success and failures came against the Aussies. While beating them 2-1 after being one down in the 2001 Border-Gavaskar trophy would undoubtedly be the biggest high, losing to them the in 2003 World Cup finals would the exact opposite. Apart from this, there were numerous series during which India would reach the finals in a hurry only to lose miserably in the end. Perhaps the greatest exception to this was the 2002 Natwest Series finals against England which set-up India’s run up to the 2003 World Cup finals. One might argue here that the Youth+Experience formula did not quite work, but then it did more good than bad for Indian cricket.

Ganguly’s career followed a typical cycle where it would peak fast and then go down, and down. His test career is a testimony to this. Starting with two artistic centuries against England, he scored at an average of 50 in his first 30 tests (seven hundreds and 11 fifties). Over his next 79 tests he scored eight hundreds and 19 fifties with a straight 20 tests without a hundred. His ODI career, arguably a format he was more comfortable with, is what he’ll be remembered for. 11K runs with 22 hundreds and the most successful opening pair ever. (See here for more stats). Here also, however, the drop was quite visible and lasted long – he averaged a meagre 36, as opposed to his career average of 41, in his last 116 ODIs. While 36 in it self isn’t less, for a man who attained cult following in various parts of the country and gave a whole new definition to aggression, it was a lull that lasted a little too long.

All said and done though, Ganguly can be credited for single-handedly taking Indian cricket to a new level where youth and adrenaline drive the team – he truly was the chosen one.

And today, one of his prodigies lead a team that brought down the curtains on another era: the Aussie era of dominance.

A team that did not know how to lose was today left searching for answers to questions reserved for its opponents till not too long ago: are we playing the right mix of players? Are we choosing the right people? Is our captain making the best decisions?Any one who saw Ponting go defensive post-tea on the fourth day of the last test could say that this team was worried about the wrong things. Imagine an Australian team faced with two options: look to skittle out the tail-enders of the opposing team and grab a definite chance to level the series or worry about the over rates which could result in a ban for the captain and bowl part time bowlers. Anyone, absolutely anyone, who has seen the aussies play for the last few years would say that the former would be a default choice, but Ponting chose the latter and that’s the biggest worry of the aussies.

When was the first time you heard Ian Chappell say this about an aussie captain: “The good thing for Ponting [is] that he comes up against New Zealand in Australia very soon and they can win those two and I suspect things might die out after that.” I don’t know about you, but this is the first time for me. Just what makes Chappell so confident that this team will defeat the Kiwis as easily as he makes it out to be, beats me completely. But one thing is for sure, he never sounded so desperate for a cure. Unfortunately for him, the cure does not seem to be in sight.

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13 Comments

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  1. rksadhu / Nov 11 2008 1:12 pm

    Appreciate ur efforts (aka good memory) in putting down several points

    Ganguly deserves a lot of credit as a passionate cricketer and captain who has transformed Indian cricket team from a “team good only on home soil” to being considered “the only team that can challenge Australia in Australia.

    Australia seem to have lost their way. The Aussie bowling attack was not good enough for the Indian pitches while their batting lacked the class and command.

  2. almostinfamous / Nov 11 2008 4:59 pm

    Of the aussie bowlers only mitchell johnson and, in the final test, krejza were anything near effective. they definitely missed the all-round services of symonds. the toothless aussie attack combined with inconsistent batting by everyone apart from hussey definitely helped india win, but full credit to the way india played the tests. batting was great to excellent, bowling was efficient and of generally very high quality, and only fielding has let them down quite a few times. also, apart from poor dravid who’s in the worst form of his life, everyone else contributed significantly including the 2 debutantes mishra and vijay.

    as for ganguly, i think he got really complacent in the middle in terms of batting and maybe took it for granted for a while. the sacking seemed to have helped him refocus on batting and he came back in good fighting spirit. as captain he was smart and aggressive but he sometimes failed to adapt to a sudden change in conditions or panicked if his plan was falling apart.

    despite everything, his contributions to both test and one dayers are something to remember!

  3. Chittaranjan / Nov 11 2008 5:56 pm

    Well done dada!

    And I don’t think the Aussie dominance is going to end…it will wane, yes. And teams like India and South Africa will come close to them but point-wise and stats-wise, it still has some headway which will be tough to overtake…at least in the short term.

  4. Ottayan / Nov 12 2008 1:34 am

    Sad to see Ganguly go and happy to see the end of the egoistical Aussies.:)

  5. Liju Philip / Nov 12 2008 2:06 am

    Under Dada, India slowly got into the habit of winning. Who knows, under Dhoni, we might emulate the all conquering Aussie team under Steve Waugh.

    Though its foolish and too early to write off Australia, i believe, the young Indian team has more potential than what we ever had (even with the Fab5).

  6. mylavarapuvinay / Nov 12 2008 8:47 am

    Great and fitting farewell to the two greats. The good thing was the timing was good.

  7. Santhosh / Nov 12 2008 5:44 pm

    It will be tough for India to find a replacement for Sourav Ganguly. Ponting disappointed big time both with his bat and captaincy.

  8. lazybug / Nov 12 2008 7:09 pm

    @Ycee and Liju: A waning aussie performance = no more dominance. I don’t see the current aussie team winning match after match consistently.

  9. JD / Nov 12 2008 9:48 pm

    Liju,

    Even Steve Waugh never won a test series in India.

  10. Chittaranjan / Nov 12 2008 10:09 pm

    @Lazybug: That would be true if the other 8 teams capitalize on that and raise their game significantly and more importantly, stay consistent with the results.

    Imagine Aussies win against NZ at home and India just draw the series against England….we’re back to square one!

  11. Liju Philip / Nov 13 2008 12:39 am

    @Akhil, the consistency might be gone from the Aussies. Also now teams will not fear Aus as much as they used to earlier.

    @JD, i was speaking about the consistency of winning. Aus under Waugh didnt win in India, but still they were a formidable force. I would love India under Dhoni to challenge that status.

  12. rksadhu / Nov 13 2008 7:07 am

    @Chittaranjan: The point here is India has the potential to be the No.1 dethroning Oz which of course does not come overnight. But when was the last time we witnessed an Aussie team (Captain) play to save their faces than to win over the opponent.

    @JD: Steve did have the burning desire to win. The same Ponting captained the team that won the Test series (2004) in India. Not that Aussies are no longer match winners, but they are no longer invincible.

  13. Chittaranjan / Nov 13 2008 2:55 pm

    We ‘may’ have the potential, but that said, it has to be fulfilled out there on the field and yes, it will take time. Thats why I’m saying there will be no immediate change in the world order.

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