“Keep Walking”, says the hoarding in the background. In the foreground, Sourav Ganguly, head bowed, walks into the sunset © Getty Images



By H Natarajan


Sourav Ganguly could be the first victim of the corporate culture that is invading Indian cricket through the Indian Premier League (IPL). When the cold and calculating czars of the corporate world are flexing their financial muscle, they don’t allow sentiments and emotions to come into the equation.


Wipro chairman Azim Premji gave the sack to two of his loyal and long-standing allies recently. They did not fit into scheme of his things and they had to go. It’s the same dispassionate corporate logic that one witnessed at the IPL4 auction where none of the ten teams made any attempt to buy Ganguly.


The reasons were clear in the minds of the brains trust of the teams, even as the world outside speculate the reasons till date. The numbers guru had crunched the figures, the itinerants had a microscopic look at the ICC cricket calendar, the legal team vetted the players’ contracts and the cricketing masters had their say on the players’ ability, form and fitness to last the next three years. Nothing was left to chance, no room for ambiguity.


Certainly there was no place for sentiments like son of the soil. Rahul Dravid, Bangaluru’s home-bred hero, was not wanted by Royal Challengers, whose Chief Mentor – sitting next to Vijay Mallya at the auction table – was Dravid’s stable mate Anil Kumble. VVS Laxman, Indian cricket’s crisis management expert and Hyderabad once iconic player, also did not fit into the scheme of Deccan Chargers and had to leave.


But what shook Indian cricket at its very roots was impassive and stony ignore of Ganguly. The media went into an overdrive, Ganguly fans went on the offensive to stage rallies, protests, burn effigies. Between the end of the auction and February 4, Indian cricket witnessed a “Hope opera” – hope that the Prince of Kolkata would make a royal back door entrance. But the “Hope Opera” ended in a “Reality show” on February 4, when the corporate czars sent Ganguly on the mat with a flurry of punches. From the Ambanis in the West, to Mallya in the South to Manoj Badale in the North, the poison arrows flew thick and fast at Ganguly.


The man – venerated as Bhismapitama by many of India current superstars for his care and mentoring during their infancy in international cricket – lay mortally wounded in a bed of arrows. It was sad to see the “God of the off-side” dumped by the wayside.


There is a school of thought that Australian cricket has adopted the same ruthless approach as the IPL team owners. Not quite, in my opinion. While it’s true that some of the biggest cricketing legends Down Under left international cricket because the decision was taken by the selectors, it’s also true that the players were told before hand and given the chance to make a dignified exit.


The legends retired amid much pomp, celebrated by the nation, chaired by the team mates, feted by the media and the fans. Those were befittingly a hero’s farewell. In sharp contrast, it was very sad to see Ganguly treated like a pariah – unwanted by all ten team in what seemed like a conspiracy of silence – and then blocked by three teams when one team had a rethink.


It was sad to see a great champion, a man who changed the face of Indian cricket with his spunk, a man who changed India’s cricket’s attitude of showing the other cheek… Gandhigiri to Dadagiri was a paradigm shift. To see such a hero pink-slipped in an ignominious manner is rather sad – denied the one last hurrah that he so badly wanted.


The team owners would say that Ganguly was fair game once he was in the auction ring. Even if one accepts that none of the team thought he was good enough to be among India’s top 70 players, what difference it made to them if another team was willing to accommodate him after a rethink? Some of the team owners became Pontiffs of morality to say that it’s not fair to twist the rule! I think THAT would have hurt Ganguly more than the initial ignore. This was rubbing salt in his wounds.


“This is not cricket at all. I am surprised that things can go down to a level that a cricketer cannot play in his own country for no fault of his…I was very disappointed the franchises stalled the repurchase. The rules of the IPL have been changed in the past. Every rule in sport should give an opportunity to play, not keep them out – whether it’s Sourav Ganguly today or some other player sometime,” a hurt Ganguly reacted.


Ganguly is not the kind of man who will forgive or forget things easily. The subtle humiliation first and then the more brazen later will have its repercussion – eventually. I have no doubt in my mind that Ganguly will reincarnate as an influential cricket administrator, even as the President of the BCCI some day. That is when the some of the team owners will feel the heat.


I’m certain many men who mattered from various teams would have walked up to Ganguly – or will do so in future – to tell him that they fought for his inclusion in their team and that the decision not to bid for him was taken by someone else. Yes, nobody killed Sourav Ganguly!


The Royal Bengal tiger has been killed and nobody wants to think he is a poacher. Well, saving the Tiger is nothing more than a slogan in our country!


(H Natarajan, formerly All India Deputy Sports Editor of  the Indian Express and Senior Editor with Cricinfo/Wisden, is the Executive Editor of CricketCountry.com. A prolific writer, he has written for many of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites all over the world. A great believer in the power of social media, he can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/H.Natarajan and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/hnatarajan )