Saurav Ganguly: Right choice, but challenges aplenty

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Published: October 18, 2015 12:15:35 AM

It was a paradigm shift. Forgive me for drawing a musical analogy, but it was like changing the tenor from Rabindrasangeet to Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up.

It was a paradigm shift. Forgive me for drawing a musical analogy, but it was like changing the tenor from Rabindrasangeet to Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up. The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) was unveiling its sponsor for Bengal teams across formats and age groups. The whole thing had been given the spice it deserved. Welcome to Sourav Ganguly’s domain.

No disrespect to the late Jagmohan Dalmiya. He gave Bengal cricket its identity. But he was a little old-school in terms of managing his home association. His colleagues never tried to convince him that a change was necessary.

Ganguly, at 43 years of age, is the CAB’s youngest-ever president. He’s expected to be refreshingly different.

Ganguly’s nomination as CAB president had sparked criticisms from different quarters because the chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, announced his name at the state secretariat. It was a departure from the norm. The president’s nomination is the state association’s prerogative, be it by consensus or through elections. After all, it was the CAB’s internal matter. But extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures. Dalmiya was a giant of an administrator and his sudden demise had created a serious leadership void. Only Ganguly had the stature to fill the big boots, his relative inexperience in cricket administration notwithstanding. The chief minister took the right decision, notwithstanding the fact that the process had irked other aspirants. Remember, the Supreme Court had appointed Sunil Gavaskar as BCCI president (IPL) in the wake of the 2013 spot-fixing and betting controversy.

There’s an apprehension that Ganguly’s appointment will allow the ruling Trinamool Congress to call the shots in Bengal cricket. But hang on, we must wait and see. If the political party and/or state government overstep their brief, they won’t be spared (by the fans and media).

Those who’ve watched Ganguly over the years know that he’s too strong a personality to be dictated by others. He showed real intent during his 12-month tenure as CAB joint secretary. Roping in VVS Laxman, Muttiah Muralitharan and TA Sekhar for the ‘Vision 20-20’ project to unearth future Test players from Bengal was a very good initiative. He also tried to overhaul local cricket, sending instructions to prepare green-tops for league matches and holding the AN GHOSH Trophy fixtures on matting wickets. He wanted the young players to learn the art of coping with seam movement and extra bounce. Ganguly wanted his association to break out of stagnation.

Unlike Mumbai, Bengal doesn’t have a proper cricket culture. It has produced only two players of international repute since its inception—Pankaj Roy and Ganguly (Dilip Doshi gets an honourable mention). The left-hander, however, made the biggest impact as he went on to become one of India’s finest captains. Frankly speaking, he became Dalmiya’s natural successor once he decided to come into cricket administration last year. Those (in the CAB) who still grumble are prisoners of naivety or over-ambition.

Former players have usually struggled in sports administration. Raj Singh Dungarpur, Polly Umrigar and Ghulam Ahmed were exceptions, but by and large former cricketers have been done in by administrative intrigues. Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad are the latest examples. They learnt the hard way that it was a different world, not as straightforward as a contest between bat and ball. Completely fed up, they decided to walk out of the Karnataka State Cricket Association after three years in charge. Ganguly rightly pointed out that as a captain he had to manage 15 players. Now, he has 121 members to deal with.

He made the right noises in his first press conference after assuming office. Eden Gardens’ infrastructure needs immediate overhaul. Facilities are average compared to other top cricketing venues in the country. Drainage system is archaic. The ground couldn’t take even 14.2 mm of rainfall during the T20 international between India and South Africa on October 8. The match had to be called off without a ball being bowled because of the wet outfield. It added to the long list of bloopers.

Ganguly doesn’t live in denial. He admitted that improvement has become the need of the hour. He has promised to make Eden Gardens world-class within three months. “Every infrastructure needs remodelling. Not just in cricket but in office, business enterprises, everywhere and this association as well. We will try and do the best possible things. I’ve been around the world for 20 years. I’ve seen almost every cricket venues around the world. I know what exists there. Give me some time. I can guarantee you that within the next three months, Eden Gardens will have the same facilities as anywhere else in the world,” he said.

“We’ve got some issues with the ground. We’ve to try and rectify that. It’s not a major issue. We will try and get it sorted. We will try and bring system into the association and make sure that the best possible equipment is available to play cricket,” he added.

Eden Gardens is scheduled to host the World T20 final on April 3 next year and it can’t afford another slip-up. As for Ganguly, CAB president, the challenge will be to get out of Dalmiya’s shadow and “walk on his own feet”.  The hawks will pounce at the first available opportunity. He also must keep the political parties at arm’s length.

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