Saturday, March 13, 2010

IPL: Of captains and owners

It’s just one match. It’s probably too early to say it, but I will say it. The team that won today belonged to India’s greatest war-time general. Shah Rukh Khan owns Kolkata Knight Riders, true. But once they step on to the field, the team belongs to the captain. Shashank Manohar or Sharad Pawar never own team India, it is Dhoni’s team. The Australian team is Ponting’s team, not ACB’s. The team that won today, belonged to Sourav Ganguly.

Does this mean that there is no meaning to what Dav Whatmore and Wasim Akram would have done? It’d be incorrect to say so. But what ultimately matters is what the men do on the field, when there is no second chance. That performance is driven by the captain.

Rewind by a year. South Africa, IPL-2. Shah Rukh Khan thought John Buchanan was the guy who’d lead KKR to victory. The natural leader of the team was Ganguly. SRK had no guts to be forthright and say that he wanted to sack Ganguly. They came up with silly things like 4 captains for the tournament, and then the captaincy was taken away in a very wrong way. Yes, it is the owner’s prerogative as to who the captain should be and who should be given the sack. But things need to be done with dignity and as a man.

I saw KKR lose matches that they should have won. McCullum as a remote-control leader was uninspiring. The real leadership resided with Buchanan, who was sitting in the dugout. Players can’t look beyond the boundary line for leadership, they need to see it on the field. Coming to this match, now.

KKR looked like they’d lose this match, quite a few times. But the difference was that this year they came back from the brink and won a match they should have lost. The difference was probably in the leadership. Probably Whatmore and Ganguly have an arrangement that beyond the boundary line, Whatmore is the leader and when they step on to the field, Ganguly is. I saw the man make 3 bowling changes, and all of them produced wickets. I saw a charged-up team. It’s just one match, but I saw a change.

I don’t know if they can make it to the semis this year. That’d mean that they have played most of their matches well, leading up to the knock-out, and then they can hope for 2 good games. KKR finished last in the previous edition of the IPL, and that had nothing to do with the then captain. The owner screwed things up. This time, SRK has left his team in his captain’s hands. If KKR does better, it is because of Ganguly. If they don’t then the captain should take the flak.

And the self-proclaimed No.1 should realise that in a cricket match the heroes are the ones who are sweating it out on the field. Not the ones beyond the boundary line. Team sport is different. It is not like a film or a soft drink, for which you select a team to make a good product. In a team sport, the team is the product.

P.S. On 24th April, nothing would please me more than seeing Sachin Tendulkar lift the trophy on his 37th birthday. He represents the city that is my home. If not him, then it should be Sourav Ganguly. After all, he is the best person to have led my country in cricket