Tuesday, October 07, 2008

In appreciation of Dadaism

My impression of Ganguly changed the moment I heard him give his first pre-match interview. I was used to Indian captains parroting the same old lines after every toss. To my surprise, Ganguly spoke quite decisively, articulately and intelligently. He seemed to have more in his rhetorical arsenal than just the usual cliches. As time went on, I went from being irritated by him to an admirer. I disliked his running between the wickets, and his slackness on the field. But I grew to admire a spirit that he seemed to be transmitting to the rest of the side: confidence and aggression. For better or worse, he saw the team as his, and the players (especially the younger ones) as his "boys". This kind of paternalism was a much needed one in the Indian cricketing context, which all too often, features the bumbling, restrictive hand of authority, but not the nurturing, guiding, or quite simply the "I've-got-your-back" one. Ganguly provided some of this and by simply acting like he didn't care about reputation and authority, made it cool for the younger brigade to not indulge in hero worship when it came to the rest of the cricketing world. Leave the hero worship to the schoolboys, he seemed to say, we're playing international cricket here. It was completely and totally unsurprising that the man who would do the most to inspire a modern Indian cricket team (and help it overcome its diffidence abroad) would be the one that would cop the most flak from international press and players. If he didn't, he'd have been doing something wrong.

Folks will write chapter and verse about his dazzling strokeplay through the off-side, and his useful, partnership-breaking bowling. (Some will write chapter and verse on his technical deficiencies). What matters for me in the ultimate analysis is that he was able to inject, in some small measure, a particular sensibility into Indian cricket. One that says "You took your shirt off to celebrate tieing a one-day series in my house; how about I come over to yours and take mine off to celebrate a real win?" When you get what that means, you'll get Dada.

12 Comments:

Blogger Homer said...

Beautifully put Samir..

5:42 PM  
Blogger Soulberry said...

Thanks Samir. Wonderful!

11:14 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Homer, SP: Dada must hold the record for being the only Indian captain to win matches on and off the field. One sledge from him, and entire nations convulse :)

11:30 PM  
Blogger Ottayan said...

The image that lingers is Dada twirling his shirt on the balcony of Lord's.

I thought it was typical Ganguly - you know the one who cares a hang for any institution be it Waugh or Lord's.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Homer said...

He restored my faith in the game after the match fixing scandal.

12:40 AM  
Blogger John said...

Wasn't he beautiful, though?

2:03 AM  
Blogger Q said...

No one will do for Indian cricket what he did.

Dhoni is continuing what Ganguly started!

3:23 AM  
Blogger Straight Point said...

he ensured that...india, for the first time learnt to play cricket off field too...

5:09 AM  
Blogger Naked Cricket said...

cheers samir, that was one good trip.

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Suraj said...

Hi Sameer

This news has swung my opinion of Sourav for hopefully last time.

He had completely won me over in 1997-98 in the Sahara and Independence Cups, by thrashing Pakistan, when thrashing Pakistan meant something.

The Chappell saga changed that completely. All of Greg's faults notwithstanding, Ganguly's obvious power-drunk attitude was painfully familiar (thanks to politicians and Government jobsworths)and obvious.

Since then, he has done well to get back into the team, but that aura of selfishness remained. His announcement has put that to bed, and I'm so glad to be thinking well of him again!

I know most people will remember him for his batting, and infusing confindence into and galvanizing an eclectic team. I hope he is also remembered for quitting on his own terms, and with dignity.

I can't remember any other Indian player to do this. The last 'icon' I can remember is Kapil Dev, and he left the game way too late.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Ottayan: He could have retired with an average of 20 and that shirt-wave would have made up for it.

Homer: Those times really seem like a bad dream, don't they?

John: When driving through the off, he really reminded me of Gower (he didn't have David's slim build but the touch was there).

Q, SP: Agreed. He was a product of his time, and has helped create an environment for the youngsters to make their own mark.

NC: And the best part is, its the Aussies and the English that have the hangovers!

Suraj: I had mixed feelings about him always but I'm glad its all working out like this.

1:24 PM  
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4:50 AM  

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