Sourav Ganguly has decided to enter the Dhoni-bashing scrum that inevitably formed after the Trent Bridge defeat. And he’s brought his fists to the fight:
“I’m too fed up hearing this “time to recover” [excuse] – don’t play for India then, you know this is what it is, you have to come back and play a Test series,” Ganguly told Indian news channel Headlines Today / Aaj Tak. “And it was an important Test series, it was a marquee Test series to decide who was the No. 1 Test side in the world and you cannot say that. Okay you’ve lost and you haven’t played well, the matter ends there, just accept that and move on.”
The reaction comes after M.S. Dhoni said he would have liked a little more time between the Caribbean and England Tests. Ganguly’s criticism isn’t entirely fair for two reasons: a) If the England Tests were truly ‘marquee,’ surely the BCCI and the relevant authorities would have recognized that and put in more time for preparation (as Gary Kirsten insisted in the run-up to the South Africa series). And b) Dhoni has often said he expects the heavy schedule in response to questions about the workload. I’m too lazy to look up specific quotes, but I’m fairly sure his attitude has always been, “This is the way things are. We deal with it.”
Only after reading more of Ganguly’s interview do you get an inkling of the source of his hostility:
“You have to put it behind … You are 28, 29, 30, you won’t get to play for India all your life. Make the most when you get it, once it goes, you won’t get it back, even how much you want it.”
Ah, yes, there it is. Intimations of mortality. There was a time — not long ago, mind you — when Ganguly was included in a group known as the ‘Fab Four.’ Together with Laxman, Dravid and Tendulkar, Ganguly toured the world and pillaged and destroyed with only a bat in his hand. Then, he lost the captaincy and headed off to retirement before he was entirely ready. You see evidence of his restlessness in his IPL career; after a so-so bunch of seasons, his protege Yuvraj Singh had to rescue the ol’ fogy. Ganguly again disappointed.
It must be difficult for athletes to contemplate retirement. Poor Roger Federer is only in his late 20s, and already people refer to him like an old uncle who doesn’t know when to leave a party. Ganguly is older, yes, but he’s not even 40, and he has to suffer the fate of commenting on what his former colleagues are doing. He is forced to watch as his friends and teammates get to play his game, knowing fully well that no matter how much he wants it, he “won’t get it back.” Ganguly has always had an edge to him; he once said — with no small trace of bitterness — that no one ever talked about dropping Tendulkar (a quote he quickly masked with praise). What Ganguly’s going through reads like an ancient Greek method of punishment, like having a thirsty man stare at a bunch of grapes just out of reach.
What does retirement mean for cricketers? It’s not exactly like death, because some do hang around in various forms. But the new relationship with fans is what makes it so unbearable. Retired cricketers are like grandmothers and relatives you know you should call, but don’t because you’re an awful person. Occasionally, they nag at you and say, “Remember all that I did for you? Remember when I broke my fingers for you? Remember when I hurt my body day after day for you?” And when they hear nothing back, all they get is an angry quote in Cricinfo.