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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Analysing Ganguly's performance in test match as a captain

The opinion of everyone is that statistically Ganguly is the best captain of India. Is it true? Stats dont reveal everything and hence this analysis. Lets go series-by-series of the ones that Ganguly has captained and see whats the performance of India and of course, the captain himself. Please note that this is not Ganguly-bashing but just a critical perspective of the performances of Ganguly and the Indian team under him. Progressive Statistics of Ganguly's performance as a batsman can be found here.

Performance in Test matches
He started captaining in his 36th test as a player and tasted success immediately. Ganguly was appointed the captain by default - Tendulkar had resigned after losing 2-0 to SAF at home and there was no Azhar, Jadeja around. Kumble was injured and Rahul was not exactly the WALL he is now. And what a team to start your captaincy debut against? Bangladesh.

One thing to note is that, as a batsman, Ganguly was averaging around 51 before the famous whitewash tour to AUS when India under Sachin lost 0-3. After this tour, the average started falling to around 41 (as of now) after the Pak test at Bangalore. I am sure he will be very conscious of this fact now.

  • BAN - India won by 9 wkts, not after conceding 400 in the first innings to BAN and faltering to 236-6 in reply. Ganguly had a role to play in the Indian resurgence in batting, scoring 84 with Joshi (92) and Agarkar (34). Srinath and Joshi then combined in the 2nd innings to rout BAN and give India the easy win.

  • Next followed another easy picking - ZIM in India. India won the first test by 7 wkts thanks to Rahul's 200 and Srinath's 9 wkts. Andy flower scored 183 in the 1st innings for ZIM. The 2nd test was drawn - the highlights being Andy flower again with 55 and 232 n.o. India couldnt get ZIM all out in this test despite making them follow-on on a placid Nagpur pitch. This was the first time ZIM escaped without a series drubbing. Ganguly's performance - 122 in 3 innings with one notout. This is the way you can cheat in stats - 122 in 3 innings is an average of 40.7 but with one notout, it becomes 61 (which looks GREAT!!!)

  • What followed was a dream (though it didnt start off like that) - Australia in India - including the VVS match - the one where India famously came back from 0-1 to win against Steve Waugh's Aussies 2-1. Much has been written about India's performance and the way they rose against one of the alltime bests in cricket history. What was Ganguly's performance? 8,1,23,48,22,4 were the scores in the 3 matches.

  • After the euphoria was another series against ZIM. This time it was on foreign soil. India won the first test by 7 wkts - thanks to a collective team-effort. In reply to Zim 173, India again slumped to 208-7 before the bowlers with the keeper Dighe took the score to a respectable 318. Srinath, Nehra and Zaheer Khan formed the pace trio alongwith the then-latest sensation Harbhajan who took wickets regularly to ensure that India won the match. In the haste to win the series, the Indians played the next match - only to lose - against ZIM!!! Good bowling by Streak and Blignaut ensured that India's batting order collapsed once again in 2nd innings from 197-3 to 234, giving a target of 157 to ZIM. Ganguly's scores were 5,9,0 in the innings that he played.

  • Off to Srilanka in SL. This was the series that Sachin Tendulkar didnt play because of injury. The first test was won by SL when India again slumped to scores of 187 and 180. Thanks to Venkatesh Prasad and Zaheer Khan with their 7-wkt match haul, he scored the truly match-winning knock as a captain (98 no) in the 2nd test of the series with India chasing a target of 264. The last match was all Murali - 8 and 3 wkts in the match ensured that India lost the match and series 1-2. SL had 4 batsmen scoring centuries in their only innings whereas there was no century in either innings from the Inidan team. 15,4,18,1,30 were Ganguly's other scores in the series. Again, the notout innings ensuring the average of 33.2 for the series.

  • Then, it was SA in SA - probably the 2nd most difficult tour after the Aussies. 14,30,42,4 n.o. were his scores in the 2-test official series. The 3rd test was banned by the ICC because of the controlversy with the excessive Indian appealing. This was also the tour that heralded the arrival of Virendra Sehwag, though as a middle-order batsman. India lost the 1st test after Sachin and Sehwag's centuries in the first innings scoring 379 and 237. Dravid played in the 1st test as an opener and Dasgupta was the opener with Das in the 2nd test. So, by this time, the openers slot was on a round-robin fashion. India escaped defeat in the 2nd test match also because of rain. Laxman top-scored for India in the only innings with 89.

  • Back against ENG in India. India won this series 1-0 after winning the first match and rain ensuring that the remaining 2 matches were affected and hence drawn. Kumble took 8 and Harbhajan 7 wkts in the first test to ensure that ENG didnt have a clue of how to play the Indians. Dasgupta, still as an opener, scored his only 100 in this match with important contributions from Sachin and Rahul. 47,5,16 no,0 were his scores in the innings he played.

  • ZIM came visiting India again and this was a time for Ganguly to get his records straight.38,136,20 in his 3 innings and India won 2-0. In the 1st test, Kumble and Harbhajan excelled with the ball whereas Sachin, Bangar and Das scored centuries. Ganguly coming at No.3 scored his first century as captain and India successfully chased 126 in the 2nd innings to win by 4 wkts!!!

  • To WI against the Windies for a 5-match series which was won by the Windies 2-1. This was a side not very different from the current Windiws team and to have lost the series after being 1-0 up was not acceptable at all. 327 runs scored by sourav in 8 innings for an average of 54.5 (scores of 5, 25, 75 no, 48, 60 no, 45, 36, 28) with 2 unbeaten fifties against a Windies attack which can probably give a fight to the Mumbai Ranji team. Rahul scored the Laxman and Ganguly were in good form in the 2nd match which India won. The 3rd test match saw India get out for 102!!! This could lead to only one result - a resounding 10-wkt loss. The last match saw good scores from Jaffer, Rahul, Laxman and Ratra resulting in the match having only the first innings on either side to be completed. The last match saw India lose the match by 155 runs to lose the series. Sachin, Laxman were the only ones who got decent starts. After the match was over and the prize distribution was happening, it poured heavily for 2 days - going to show that the Indians lacked the planning to play out for time, which could have resulted in a drawn series.
  • England overseas. 5,0,68,99,128,51 were his scores in the 4-test series that India drew 1-1 after being 0-1. England was nowhere close to the team that it was in 2004 but this was the favourite haunting ground for Sourav Ganguly especially. This series was the turning point where Sehwag was asked to open the batting and what a change of fortune for India that turned out to be. Not so good bowling by India and centuries by Nasser Hussain (in his last series as captain), Vaughan, Crawley ensured India lost the match. Ajit Agarkar, of all people, scored his only century in the 2nd innings of the match. Sehwag, Sachin, Rahul and Ganguly scored well in the 2nd test, but only after young Parthiv Patel in his first test, played out time could India followed on to England's huge score of 617. Then the turnaround at Headingley - centuries to Rahul, Sachin and Sourav - how many times has that happened? India won by an innings and 46 runs. Remember the patch of innings when Sachin and Sourav opted to bat in badlight and Sachin hooked Caddick out of the ground. The last match turned out to be a dull draw with both teams just about managing to complete the first innings - Rahul scored one of his 200s.

  • Windies at home. 4,0,29,16. The run started again!!! Again, this wasnt a bowling side which was anyway comparable to the best. But, riding on Sehwag & Rahul's centuries and Kumble & Harbhajan's bowling in the first test, India won by an innings. Note that this was a lara-less Windies side in India. Kumble and Harbhajan again did the trick with Sehwag's 50+ in 1st innings in the 2nd test with India winning by 8 wkts. India suffered the ignominy of having 3 batsmen in opposition score centuries in 3rd test (Hinds, Samuels, Chanderpaul) - Sachin and Laxman with centuries managed to draw the test in Kolkota.

  • NZ overseas. 29,16,17,2 in 4 innings in a 0-2 rout. This was a series that was characteristic for the low scores produced because of seam tracks that NZ had laid down to counter the batting might of India.Rahul and Sachin scored the only significant scores for India in the 1st innings and thanks to Bond/Tuffey/Oram, India slumped to 10-wkt loss in the 1st test. 2nd test - india scored 99 and NZ replied with 94 in the 1st innings. Sehwag played down the order in the 2nd innings but of no use. NZ sneaked through with a 4-wkt win.
  • NZ at home. 100 no, 25 in his only test of the series. Rahul scored one more 200 and a century for Sourav in the series. He didnt play in the rest of the series because of injury. India couldnt close out the match after taking 6 NZ wkts in the 2nd innings.
  • Aussies overseas. This was probably the first Indian team which did so well against AUS in AUS. It started off good for Ganguly when he scored his 1st century against AUS but the match was affected by rain to become a draw. This was the time when Sourav thanked Greg Chappell for his help in overcoming his batting problems. But, this series didnt have Mcgrath and Warne in the Aussie side because of injuries and ban. This factor, the good batting tracks and the Indian top-order in good form ensured that the rest of the series was a closely fought one. The plight of the future Aussie bowling attacks, once Mcgrath and Warne retire, might be similar to what was encountered in this series. 700+ was scored in the last test of the series with sachin scoring 240+ and laxman 178. Another important contributor in the series was the opening partnerships that was laid by Sehwag and Akash Chopra. So, on Ganguly's performance - 144,2,12,37,73,16 - one century and one 50+ score in 6 innings.

  • Pakistan overseas. Finally, the overseas series that India won after Srilanka in the 90s. Played in only one of the test matches that India won 2-1, scoring 77. This was the last match of the series after Rahul captained the team in the first 2 matches. Rahul scored 270 (and with help from the bowlers Balaji, Pathan and Kumble) to help India win the match by an innings and 131 runs.

  • Australia at home. The Final Frontier had to fall. There was a big gap after the series win against Pak and the team had no proper practice at all when the mighty Aussies arrived. Sourav played in only the first 2 tests (1-0 AUS leading with 1 match drawn because of rain) and his scores were 45,5,9. Clarke. Gilchirst shined for AUS before the bowlers wiped out the Indians. It was a collective bowling effort from the Aussies. Only the tail wagged to delay the inevitable in the 2nd innings. The 2nd test was all Sehwag's way and India was on its way to equal the series when Gillespie and Martyn ensured that India had to bat again and chase a target of 229. Rain on the final day prevented a great climax to the match.Sourav's persistence with Parthiv Patel inspite of his keeping errors also played a part in AUS managing to get away with the match. The performance went down and AUS won the 3rd test against Rahul's Indians. The Indians took the 4th test on a minefield of a pitch in Mumbai.

  • SAF at home. A very weak SA side arrived and everyone predicted a brownwash. But, what happened was not exactly that. 57,40 in his 2 outings in the test matches showed that he had got his form back but it was more of an aberration than form, since the SAF team was very weak in its bowling department. The first test saw Hall of SAF score a big century ensuring that SAF took the first step ahead. Sehwag and Gambhir lead the reply for India and the match petered out to a tame draw. Inspite of century by Kallis, SAF met its match to India thanks to Sehwag, Rahul with the bat and Kumble, Harbhajan with the ball. Thus, India won the series 1-0 after its earlier loss to AUS.

  • BAN overseas. There were 2 tests played and India won both the matches convincingly thanks to Irfan Pathan's exploits with the ball. 71 and 88 in his 2 innings for India. WOW!!! Great scores against BAN, the team that is clearly at the bottom (not exactly since they defeated ZIM to go one spot above). Sachin scored 248 in the first test whereas Gambhir, Rahul scored centuries in the 2nd to ensure that India won both the test matches by an innings.

  • Pakistan at home. A disappointing series for India. Everyone expected a 3-0 win for India and critics had mentioned that this was the worst team to leave Pakistan. The first match saw India getting a big lead thanks to Sehwag. But, Kamran Akmal and Razzaq ensured that Pak didnt lose the match with their resoluteness. The 2nd test went India's way thanks to Sehwag, Dravid, Karthik with the bat and Kumble with the ball in 2nd innings. The 3rd test was thrown away by India with some unimaginative batting on the last day and lost with 6 overs to spare by 168 runs. This test was also the one where Sehwag had responded to Younis Khan's 267 with his own 201. Once Sehwag got out, this test was going only one way - towards Pakistan. 21,12,12,1,2 were Sourav's scores.

  • Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe - India was expected to have 2 wins on this 2-test match series and finally get their overseas series win (after 19 years). The series went on the same lines, as expected. Pathan took 21 wickets in 2 matches to destroy the ZIM team. Laxman and Ganguly scored centuries in the 1st test whereas Gambhir/Rahul scored heavily (missing their tons narrowly) in the 2nd test. But, the series became famous for off-the-field spat between Ganguly and Greg Chappell. This looks like the E N D for Ganguly as things are going on in a very ugly manner between him and the rest of the team. Unless Dalmiya and Ganguly can come up with their own politics and oust Greg Chappell out of the team, this is the end of Ganguly's tenure of captain.

So, if you notice, the series win against Aussies in 2001 season, the drawn series in Australia and the series win in Pakistan were the main victories of his captaincy.

What is also noticeable is that Ganguly had a good team playing under him with the likes of Sachin, Rahul, Laxman and bowlers like Srinath, Kumble, Harbhajan, Zaheer, Pathan, Balaji. Most of these players were around for sometime before Ganguly took over as captain. They had learnt the tricks of trade and had matured into the match-winners. In fact, Srinath was recalled by Ganguly till he was confident that Zaheer and Nehra could pick up the bowling threads. So, plus points on Man-management and Proactive planning to Sourav.

A good opener (Sehwag) was unearthed during this time which ensured that Rahul, Sachin didnt have to face the new ball much, resulting in good scores from them. Should Ganguly be given the credit of making Sehwag to open? Dont think so. It was more of a by-default case that Sehwag was made the opener. Laxman, Rahul, Dasgupta, Das, Jaffer, everyone had tried their hands on opening the innings and thats how Sehwag also got the chance. To Ganguly's luck, Sehwag clicked and the rest is history. Later on, if you remember, even Yuveraj was also tried out but this move didnt click. This can be pointed to trying out new things and being innovative.

Would Ganguly have been there in the team if he was not the captain? NO. I am sure people like Mongia, Sriram would have also performed in the same way that he has played. As far as his batting is concerned, as can be seen, his batting against BAN, ENG in a full series were the only ones where he bloomed.

Why doesnt he bowl? I remember the series in Toronto where he haunted the Pakis with his allround skills. Once he started captaining, his bowling took a dip and he refused to bowl especially in ODIs. Gone are the days when he had the confidence to open the bowling against the Aussies.

Of course, the support he gave to some players like Bhajji, Yuveraj, Kaif and retain them also hold true to Ganguly's credit.

Also, till Ganguly's time, Indian cricketers were always the good guys who finished last. After he came to power, they started playing to their potential and fighting, even against the laws - which could be seen in the number of times the Indian players have been penalised ;)

But, all in all, I think the time has come when he has to gracefully bow out. The team needs a new captain, some new thinking. Wish Sourav all the best for his future tasks.

Look at my analysis of Ganguly's performance in ODIs.
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