The way the selectors handled VVS Laxman’s retirement has caused much anguish. Arunabha Sengupta says that there is a lot of truth in Sourav Ganguly’s statements about the pathetic approach of Kris Srikkanth and Company.
For many itching to vent their emotions at the remarkably shoddy treatment meted out to VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly’s criticism of the selection committee was like a balm that stung hard before making the agony slightly bearable.
In recent times it has become extremely difficult to take the selectors seriously, but if this is the way a player of Laxman’s stature is treated, it is impossible to laugh it off as antics of a troop of amateur clowns.
Just recently, we have had to deal with some selections that can waltz into Ripley’s – no questions asked.
"A few days ago, Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla came back into the Twenty20 squad while Ajinkya Rahane was left wondering what more he has to do to be awarded a slot. "
On the other hand Rohit Sharma was taken to Australia and not played in a single Test in spite of a succession of collapses suffered by the batting line-up. He was persisted with for a protracted eternity in the One Day team amidst a surfeit of single digit scores, and was then retained for T20 and dropped from the Test squad because of failures in the shorter format!
Even if one starts to write a serious article on these wise men, one cannot help but wander into the genres of satire and humour.
And as if floundering in matters of selection was not quite enough, Kris Srikkanth and his merry men have outdone themselves in their farcical bumbling with the last days of the career of one of the most fantastic players in the history of Indian cricket.
All this surprisingly takes place when the very man who had once famously called this tribe a “bunch of jokers” happens to be a member of the committee – the only one who will perhaps carry on in his role once the current crop is replaced.
Laxman is universally known as the nicest person to have graced the game. He went about his announcement with expected poise and dignity. However, few can really digest his sudden decision virtually on the eve of a Test series for which he had been training with characteristic commitment.
In the end it was left to Ganguly to come out and voice his disgust at the ridiculous attitude of the selectors that, even if marginally, shortened a sublime career. And the sentiment is indeed echoed in several quarters.
My tip? No thanks, keep the change
VVS Laxman does not need the ‘large-hearted’ largesse of a handful of self-important bigwigs to play a farewell series. If he was told at the last moment that he was being given this favour as a measly tip for his services to Indian cricket, the wristy wizard seems perfectly justified in rebuffing the offer with his silent version of, “Keep the change, you humbugs.”
As Ganguly put it, “He has sent a strong message to the selectors.”
Very true. Yet, the message has not been hammered home, it has been caressed with trademark Laxman elegance. No ungainly strike across the line – just a subtle manoeuvre, which deflects the play to a completely unexpected part of the field. With everyone expecting him to play the two home Tests, he gracefully bowed out – with the delicate hint suggesting that the gesture of carelessly throwing a couple of Tests as loose change in front of a player of his stature is nothing short of criminal.
It will perhaps rankle in his sensitive soul, especially given the amount of creative passion with which always he took field. But then, Laxman is not really unaccustomed to such injustice.
He ends his career as the greatest modern batsman not to have played in a World Cup. In 2003, so certain was his selection for the tournament that he even featured in a World Cup themed soft drink advertisement launched a few days before the tournament – one of the very few endorsements he has carried out during his career. Yet, when the squad was announced, Dinesh Mongia was preferred in his place – who ended up with 120 runs from six innings during the competition.
Ganguly, the captain during that World Cup campaign, has now voiced his solid support for the artist. That the former southpaw is genuinely pained by the trashy treatment meted out to his former teammate seems apparent from his comments.
Historically, Ganguly has been known to speak his mind. And according to this writer, his words cannot always be taken as gospel – however sacrilegious this may sound in certain quarters. His criticism of Dhoni in recent times has become repetitive and dubious, and his endeavour to find potential ready-to-use captains at every street corner positively puerile.
However, with his comments about the selector’s handling of the situation there is little doubt that he has zeroed in on the truth, and has hit the crux of the problem hard.
And it was with typical Ganguly candour that he pointed out the murky shallowness that constituted the slippery foundation of Srikkanth’s reaction. Indeed, the chairman of selectors could not have paraded the sham more eloquently – first making a mess of the situation and then appearing on television singing eulogies that jarred discordantly with their steps in immediate past.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)