IT looks like most of the gas has gone out of Saurav Ganguly. He assumed various poses before and after the Australians landed in India - they have beaten second-rate teams (forgetting that India was one of those teams), we are at home and therefore stronger and the famous last-time statement - "last time we thrashed them". Now he has no leg to stand on and the man is trying to gain some extra batting practice by playing for the Board President's XI before the second Test.
While it may be true that Sachin Tendulkar was a bit too mild and gentlemanly in his demeamour and attitude when he was captain, Ganguly seems to be the other extreme. You can afford to be confrontational to the degree that he is when there is something to show. India has a miserable record in Tests abroad and the same is slowly becoming true for Tests at home. The myth of being tigers at home is being shown up for what it is - just that.
Whether the Indian selectors like to admit it or not, they were suckered into playing Rahul Sanghvi in the first Test. The Australians made him look good in the game against Bombay. He was promptly preferred to the experienced Venkatapathy Raju. His spinning partner was Harbhajan Singh who has played just eight Tests. And this was the spin attack which India put up against the hardened Australian outfit. It was hoping for a bit too much. The attitude was typical of Ganguly - brash.
It is lamentable that when Sanghvi was being treated like a dog's breakfast by Adam Gilchrist, there was nobody to give him any advice. Ganguly kept away. And I get the feeling that if either of the senior players, Tendulkar or Dravid, had gone up to him and given him some encouragement, they would have been taken to task by the captain. Ganguly seems to like lording it over the rest of the team, forgetting that he is relatively green when it comes to Test cricket and a novice when it comes to captaincy.
Much as Ganguly would like to assert that there is unity in the Indian camp, it is obvious that there are differences. He seems to want to take all the decisions without considering advice from others. Such an attitude would be tolerated when a captain has been around for a while and proved his worth. Ganguly is a man who arrived yesterday. His elevation has much to do with the former ICC president, Jagmohan Dalmiya. And everybody in Indian cricket circles is aware of that.
It is rare for a team to be beaten in the opening Test of a three-match series and come back to win the remaining two. I cannot recall when a team did that in recent times. There have been cases when teams have been down 0-2 or 0-1 in five-match series and then come back to clinch the series. Does the Indian team have the wherewithal to do this? There is one man who has the technique and the ability to fight back. Or rather, there is one man who is willing to play Test cricket as it should be played - carefully, in a calculating manner.
Ganguly's attitude can be gauged from the way he went for a single in the second innings of the first Test and got run out. He ran as though he was taking a leisurely stroll down the Janpath in Delhi. He has a great deal to learn and it is very likely that after a few outings like this, when his team is humiliated, he will find the captaincy too onerous a task.
Australia will now be looking to get Ganguly cheaply in the tour match. If they do that, they will have him for tea when the next Test comes around. The first day of a Test series is very important and Ganguly, unfortunately, did not appreciate that fact enough. After India were bowled out for 176, only a very optimistic Indian fan would have given them any chance of recovering and putting the Australians under pressure. My prediction before the Australians went to India was that they would win a hard-fought series 1-0. I will definitely be proved wrong on that one.