The step-down controversy - Playing for self

Even before boarding the flight to Zimbabwe, Ganguly knew that this was going to be a make-or-break series for him (not just as a captain but even as a player). India didn't win the videocon tri-series and the fact that he wasn't among the runs did not help his cause. The test series was his last chance to salvage something out of this tour. He knew that just winning the series wouldn't be enough and that he had to score really big to regain the respect of his team.

When Greg gave him the step-down option, he would have realized that taking it would mean the end of his test career. The request was not just to step down as captain, but to step out of the team and that is one step he was not ready to take yet. It was already clear to him that his team no longer had the same respect for him, but he wouldn't have expected anyone (least of all Greg) to ask him to step down in the middle of this tour. Having been selected as the captain for the entire tour, he would have felt entitled to give himself two more tests and see how he would fare as a batsman.

There is nothing to choose between him and Dravid when it comes to captaincy skills - it is only his batting that has let him down. There was a time when his was the first name that was written down while selecting the batsmen in the team, but now his inclusion is more of a thank-you-for-your-past-deeds deal. He is someone who takes great pride in his past records and he didn't want to do anything in haste that he would'nt be proud of later on. He knew that he wouldnt be hampering India's chances of winning the series by playing his out-of-form self. It is not like they were playing Australia or Pakistan. He had Dravid's backing and he believed that he was good enough to come good.

Was it the right thing? Well, it is sort of the same as giving rest to your in-form players and playing the fringe players in inconsequential (against Zim/Ban it is always inconsequential) games. Isn't it? If that is right, then giving an out-of-form captain an opportunity to play himself into some form in "will win anyway" games also seems right.

He scored a painstakingly slow boring ton. He needed that very bad and all credit to him for digging in and fighting his mental demons. He restrained himself from going after the spinners, brushed aside the terrible mixup which ran-out Laxman and concentrated hard on occupying the crease for long hours. If that is what it takes to put some confidence back into him, if that is what it takes for him turn a corner, if that is what it takes to gain some self-respect, then the manner in which he got those runs shouldn't be questioned. It was not an innings he would be proud (as evident from his meek celebration after reaching his ton), but one which he would definitely remember as one of his most satisfying tons.

About the outburst (it wasn't really an outburst.. was it?) on TV, was it needed? May be not. It was obvious that he was being pushed by Harsha for an answer and he yielded. Would he have said it if he had been out for a blob? May be not. Where does he go from here? He knows that this ton means very little (though it meant a lot to him personally) to the review committee and that he has to follow this up with a more commanding innings in the next test. The good thing is that he is aware of what is expected of him and is quite determined to achieve that. I just have a feeling that he is seriously thinking of stepping down (one more ton in the next test might change those thoughts) as the captain at the end of the series and that he wants to make a strong case for himself as a batsman before he does that.

Related Posts:
(a) Greg Chappell did his job
(b) Quotes

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