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By Sohini Mitter

 

The big ‘business’ of cricket is back. The recently-concluded IPL 4 auctions have thrown up a cocktail of surprises, shocks, displeasures and a bit of excitement to top it up. The fact that the auction was telecast Live (Official figures suggest that Set Max recorded a 31% rise in its GRPs for the weekend) made it all the more subject to the prying eyes of millions of cricket fans across the globe. Every second was closely followed, monitored, discussed, debated and analyzed.

 

In India, everybody has an opinion on cricket, a very strong one at that. Add to it, a dose of emotions about Player ‘A’ or Player ‘B’ and you get an ideal plot for a melodramatic film.

 

A bit of such melodrama ensued following the non-inclusion of Sourav Ganguly in the fourth edition of the mega league. Ganguly, not retained by KKR, went unsold at the auction. Yes, not a single taker among the 10 franchises that saw the darling of Bengal shunted in an elite but unwanted list that included legendary names like Brian Lara, Sanath Jayasuriya and even Chris Gayle – the last named has a strike rate of 144.49 in the T20 format.

 

The exclusion of these cricketing greats in IPL has drawn flak from some corners and support from the others. While some believe that by snubbing some of the best batsmen in cricket, franchises have humiliated them, others assert that these names were ‘unfit’ for the T20 format and team owners were correct in not bidding for them.

 

While Ganguly finds himself in wilderness all over again, his hometown Kolkata is furious at this new development. Angry fans have burnt giant effigies of Shahrukh Khan, held protest marches across the city, pelted stones at KKR’s office and threatened to boycott all matches at the Eden Gardens. This isn’t the first time that the ‘City of Joy’ has erupted in this manner. After the infamous 2005 spat between Greg Chappell and Ganguly, when the latter found himself out of the Indian dressing room for nearly 18 months, sentimental Kolkata did pretty much the same things. Selector Kiran More and coach Greg Chappell died multiple deaths in the streets of the city. But is this angst and hostility justified? Is this an overflow of emotions or an obvious response? Your guess is as good as mine.

 

No one will dispute the fact that Ganguly is one of the finest cricketers that the game has witnessed, arguably the best left-handed batsman the country has produced and certainly one of the best captains that the present generation has seen. Why, then, has he perennially been subjected to harsh selection decisions and cricket politics, both at the national level as well as in IPL? Detractors say he is arrogant; he doesn’t get along with coaches (especially Australians, who are coaching of seven out of the 10 teams in IPL 4); he is a burden on the team management when out of form and is difficult to drop; he has no place in the team other than as a captain, he is not agile and is unsuitable for the shortest version of the game; he has retired from international cricket and doesn’t have brand value anymore. In a nutshell, he is a ‘non-performing asset’, and an unprofitable venture, that gives no return on investment.

 

But are these strong enough arguments to snub the fourth highest run-getter of IPL 3? Is it right on Shahrukh’s part to hold the captain solely responsible for his team’s disaster year-after-year? He certainly cannot ignore the fact that Ganguly was the Man-of-the-Match in five out of seven matches that his team won in 2010, clearly indicating that he was the finest performer for his team. How then can Shahrukh claim that Ganguly was not retained on grounds of “non-performance”? How can the other bidders justify that, unheard-of entities like Umesh Yadav get sold for megabucks and ridiculous players like Ravindra Jadeja and Munaf Patel find big buyers, while legends of the game don’t find a rupee in their name? Is there any method to this madness?

 

As someone stated, “The bidders have clearly placed their business interests ahead of sentiments. There’s no place for emotions in IPL. It is pure business.” But why is it that Ganguly doesn’t feature in their ‘business interests’?

 

It surely isn’t a ‘cricketing reason’, as Kapil Dev rightly pointed out. There is more than what meets the eye. Wasim Akram, who was the bowling coach for KKR in IPL 3 said, “I thought Ganguly would be picked up by some franchise for his experience and leadership qualities. But it was a big surprise when he was totally ignored.” Not a single franchise has been able to come out with a satisfactory answer to the questions that are being raised every minute in the nook and corners of Kolkata, and other parts of the country too.

 

It upsets me deeply to see Ganguly out of IPL action on unjustified grounds. But it irks me even more to see his ex-owner make defensive statements in the media, to appease angry fans. Assuring Ganguly that he’ll be accommodated in KKR in a “non-player capacity” is one of the worst ways to handle this tide. The least Shahrukh can do is stand by his decision. Ganguly needs no counselling from a cricket-challenged individual. The owner can reserve his words of counsel for his “revamped” team that will soon be defeated and demoralized enough, to retain their permanent position at the bottom of the IPL points table.

As far as Ganguly is concerned, he has always been the comeback man. Will IPL give him another chance? Or will he snub IPL once and for all? Only time will tell.

 

(Sohini Mitter is a business journalist by profession and poet-photographer-blogger by passion. Pseudo-geek, cinephile, bookworm and a social media addict. She is a cricket fanatic for life and after and the biggest admirer of Saurav Ganguly to grace the earth!)