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Jackson fans' tribute at Apollo

Friday, October 10, 2008

No freedom, only pressure

Indian Cricket spent most of this week in a bizarre, teary eyed, lump-in-the-throat haze. This Australia series is Sourav Ganguly’s last, and with theories such as VRS schemes and boardroom deals dismissed, a lot of energy was spent on celebrating the former skipper for the steel he injected into the spine of Indian cricket. The retirement announcement was hailed as the silver lining these Tests would always be associated with, like the 2003-04 tour Down Under is always instantly linked to Steve Waugh.

But every silver lining has a dark cloud in front of it. And while there’s no doubt that the contribution of Ganguly, and all the others of the so-called Fab Five, will eventually live beyond one or two series, the glare of the spotlight will be that much harsher over the next four matches.

If the Great Indian Middle-order needed to be put under any extra pressure in this age of instant cricket and immediate glorification, Ganguly’s retirement announcement has ensured the strain will multiply. For all the talk of batting with freedom post-announcement, one month is a long time in Indian cricket. The extended swansong for the former captain will mean that the mob culture that accompanies the sport will start losing patience quickly if Ganguly, or any of the other three senior batsmen, fail to perform in the first Test itself. By the end of the second, the calls are capable of becoming so loud that the fabulous farewell tour could get derailed faster than many experts are willing to acknowledge.

So the onus, more than ever, is on Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, and VVS Laxman to hit the ground running in Bangalore today, especially after the Australian middle-order and the Indian openers have shown what can be done on the Chinnaswamy pitch if a batsman is patient and willing.

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