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England’s best chance to win a couple of games


Sourav Ganguly’s departure will have a severe impact, writes Geoffrey Boycott


— Photo: K.R. Deepak

DETERMINED: England will bank on captain Kevin Pietersen, who was seen having a work out on the eve of the first ODI.

There are many who say that Sourav Ganguly couldn’t have timed his retirement better. He’s left with his head held high and with people asking why he’s going, which is always better than people asking why you’re staying on.

However, personally speaking, I think he still had quite a bit of Test cricket in him. I think he should have played against England and then toured New Zealand, too, but then I’m no one to comment on his personal decision.

As a long-time admirer of his, all I can say is that his departure will have a severe impact. Sometimes, it is only after someone has gone you realise his value.

Similarly, I think it’s only now that people will realise how good Sourav was for Indian cricket. He picked up his team from the depths and showed them that they didn’t have to fear anyone.

But that wasn’t the only reason why he was such a good captain. The qualities I admire most about him are: one, he never vacillated. If a decision had to be taken, he took it on the spot.

Two, he never suffered fools gladly, which may have earned him a few enemies, but you need a clear mind to lead well and can’t afford to be nice to everybody. And three, he was a strong, independent man who never allowed anyone to interfere with his team.

But those who queued up to criticise Sourav were never good enough. He was a stubborn man and a gritty one, and he reminded me of Mrs. Thatcher’s famous quote: “The lady’s not for turning!”

Not only one of the best captains India has ever had, but also one of its best batsmen. Unfortunately, throughout his career, the controversies that dogged Sourav often obscured the fact that he was also an excellent cricketer.

On Friday, India will take the field without him, but his legacy is the leadership qualities that he instilled, which Mahendra Singh Dhoni seems to have learnt well, for he displays that rare ability that Sourav had, of getting along equally well with both the juniors and seniors.

India will also take the field without Sachin Tendulkar.

This is a team of mostly raw youngsters, which gives England its best chance to win a couple of quick games at the start of the series. While these young players may turn out to be excellent prospects for India, I’m not sure all of them have the ability to fill the very large boots left vacant.

As for England, I have only this to say: their batting can go from the sublime to the ridiculous in minutes, and their batting order is a problem, because they don’t have the right players at the top of the order. They don’t yet know what their best team is, and a possible over-reliance on Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff could prove damaging.

Gameplan

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