Sourav Ganguly senses an opportunity – he has always been good at that.
He knows that the best time to strike is when the opposition is weak and even though India have just won against New Zealand, Duncan Fletcher’s position can’t exactly be secure.
According to sources in the Indian team, the current India coach often wears a puzzled look in the nets. He hasn’t turned out to be a task master like John Wright nor is he an inspirational ‘behind the scenes’ coach like Gary Kirsten. He’s just been Fletcher and an example that not many would want to follow.
Ganguly has had the chance to observe this team at close quarters during his stints in the commentary box; he would have also had the chance to talk to the team players and by saying that he is ready to step up and take over as coach, the former India skipper is showing that he is confident enough to change Indian cricket once more.
So what exactly would Ganguly bring to the plate?
Not technique. Ganguly was never known for that. India would ideally need to get a separate batting coach, a separate bowling coach and definitely, a separate fielding coach. Ganguly’s real contribution would be on the ‘mental’ side.
With him around, there would be no repeat of the third Test against West Indies in July 2011, when Mahendra Singh Dhoni decided to settle for a draw – despite having a good chance of going for victory. Indians had elected to abandon the chase when they required 86 runs from the 15 mandatory overs with seven wickets remaining.
With Ganguly, as coach, India would never take a backward step. The question of playing for a draw would simply not exist. And the ‘play safe’ ideology would be banished for the dressing room forever.
Ganguly would be the coach that Greg Chappell never was – more importantly, he would be the coach that India wanted Chappell to be. Many would argue that he is too big a personality to be made coach. His words would make the headlines in a way that Wright or Kirsten or Fletcher never could and that would be something that the skipper wouldn’t take too kindly to.
The BCCI wouldn’t like that either. But at least he wouldn’t be the puppet that Fletcher seems to be. Ganguly has a voice and it would be heard.
Then again, Ganguly has just finished his career as a cricketer. Is it too soon? Well, the Chinese do it all the time with their table-tennis and badminton champions. It seems to serve them pretty well.
But on the flip side, Ganguly has always had his likes and dislikes, for example… we could see someone like Harbhajan Singh get into the side.
“You can call it my bias or love for Harbhajan but if in India you are picking three best spinners in the country, Harbhajan Singh’s got to figure in that list. Harbhajan is one bowler who should be playing all three formats of the game,” Ganguly recently said.
Now, that may not be the best way forward for Indian cricket but knowing Ganguly, he will rely more on his gut instinct than on sheer numbers or facts.
The other fear is that coaches are often counted upon to do the menial jobs. Get the nets set up, reach the ground an hour before the team to check out the conditions, come up with training routines – for most part of his cricket career, he never seemed to be someone who would do that. Will he be able to do it now?
Ganguly’s time with Wright and Chappell would have taught him the rights and wrongs of the job and if he really wants to do it – he should give it his best shot. Fletcher's contract runs up to April 2013 – so he has some time to prepare if only the BCCI were to drop him a hint.
But that aside, with him around – Indian cricket would never be boring. Cricket at the highest level is a tactical game and Ganguly would certainly be able to help the Indian team in that department. And the youngsters would listen to him – he has been an idol to many and he has a way with words.
Training the flaws out of the young cricketers may not be his forte, but he will know when to pat them on their backs and give them the confidence they desperately seek. At the end of the day, all the players who make it to the highest level know how to play cricket, but learning how to compete at the highest level is a different thing.
Ganguly taught India how to fight once and he might be just the guy to teach a whole new generation how to do it again. Even if he doesn't teach the Indian team anything else -- he just may teach them a new way to celebrate their victories.