By T S Sudhir
History repeats itself. I can imagine Greg Chappell sniggering miles away somewhere Down under, a la “Mogambo khush huwa”. As coach, Greg had humiliated `Mr India’ Sourav Ganguly, making him invisible from the Indian dressing room. Five years later, 10 franchisees owning IPL teams in different cities of India, gave Ganguly the Chappell treatment by not `buying’ him during the IPL auction over the weekend in Bangalore.
Typically, most sport commentators are talking of how Kolkata will be upset. As if Dada belonged only to the land of Eden Gardens. After all, the Prince of Kolkota, a la Subhash Chandra Bose, had proved himself to be the most aggressive Netaji of the men in blue.
Sourav had hiked his base price, just like VVS Laxman, to $ 400,000 because anything less than that would have hurt his pride. Understandably so.
But while Ganguly’s name met with a hush-hush silence in the auction room, Laxman was more lucky. It was common knowledge that his `owner’ the first three seasons, Deccan Chargers’ Venkat `Ram’ Reddy wasn’t bullish on Laxman. But God’s own team, Kochi bought into the stylish Hyderabadi’s ability to bail a team out of crisis. Given the amount of sweat the Kochi franchisee has broken into in recent months, they would hope VVS will put a Laxman rekha to all problems.
One wonders why the captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders did not have a chat with present owner Shahrukh Khan or any of the other franchisee owners to prevent this ignominy. Surely if the Badshah did not plan to `buy’ Dada, he should have told him so. We don’t know if he did nor did not. This stamp of a `reject’ item made Ganguly look like being stranded in the middle of the wicket with the non-striker refusing to take a run. And Dada, never the fastest between the wickets, could do nothing to prevent being run out.
Sanjay Manjrekar says this is not a reflection on Ganguly’s brand equity but his cricketing equity. To be fair to the franchisees, Ganguly purely as a cricketer is certainly beyond his expiry date. He is not in active cricket anymore in any format, unlike a Dravid or a Laxman. The smart thing to do would have been to get into a `mentor’ kind of role for Kolkata Knight Riders or any of the newer teams like Pune Warriors. And then perhaps do a double role a la Shane Warne.
Emotional as we Indians may get about Ganguly, the fact remains that the Kolkota IPL team was the only one among the original eight which never made it to the semi-finals in the first three editions. They caught eyeballs more for their catchy anthem `Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo re’ (which meant `we will do it, fight it, and win it’) even thought it did little to help their drooping spirits. They hit the headlines for the manner in which former Australian coach John Buchanan introduced the concept of different captains during IPL 2. Ganguly though survived that coup and got back his crown in IPL 3.
Till this weekend.
One does understand that IPL is business. A business that involves megabucks. And there is little room for sentiment. One still wishes icons like Ganguly were treated better. It is all about Being Human, SRK !
Just like Brian Lara and Sanath Jayasuriya’s agents should have bothered to find out the interest levels in the Prince of the Caribbean and the Matara Marauder among the Shilpas and the Mallyas. It wasn’t in good taste to see three of the best left-handed batsmen in recent cricketing history, left stranded.
Or shall we, for consolation sake, look at it this way. All the money in the world cannot buy Maharaj.
The Prince of Kolkata is retired. Hurt. Long live Maharaj.