Former India captain Sourav Ganguly has been unceremoniously dumped and will not remain as the President of BCCI after 17th of October. However, Jay Shah, son of Home Minister Amit Shah, will continue to retain his post as Secretary. The move has sparked off a huge controversy in cricket circles. Many commentators are saying that the ruling party at the centre has treated the ex-captain with disdain despite his dedication and outstanding achievements.
The irony is that in the past, many players had expressed their gratitude to Ganguly for his help in building their careers. Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, M S Dhoni and others had earlier stated that they owe a lot to Ganguly. But today not a single voice has been raised to speak for him. When he needs their support, they have turned their backs on him. Even his closest friends Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar are keeping mum.
There have been many instances when famous sportsmen took a stand on political issues. Muhammad Ali went to prison but stuck to his beliefs about the Vietnam War. To protest against treatment of blacks in the USA, Tommy Smith and John Carlos held up black gloved fists when the US national anthem was played at the Mexico Olympics. Colin Kaepernick started the trend of going down on one knee as a protest against racism. Whether their stand was right or wrong can be debated. But they have fearlessly made their opinion known. However, Indian sportspersons lack that courage. Their short sighted safety-first policy may backfire upon them in the future. They too may be thrown away one day. Unless the players develop a strong bargaining power, they will always be used and discarded by different politicians regardless of party.
It was Ganguly’s strong captaincy and leadership qualities that guided India out of the woods and erased the distasteful memories of the match fixing scandals that rocked Indian cricket. He built confidence among the Indian players. He made them feel that they can overcome Australia, South Africa and England. After all his contributions to the cause of Indian cricket, this is the treatment that he has been given. The obvious questions that arise here are: What did Jay Shah do in comparison to Ganguly? Why should he be allowed to stay in his post?
According to media sources in Kolkata, Ganguly didn’t see this coming. He is deeply disappointed. He was under the impression that he would get a second term in office along with Jay Shah. The manipulators within the BCCI had kept their moves under wraps. The President did not have the slightest hint that he would be shown the door. In recent times, Jay Shah even consulted him about team India’s jersey sponsorship and the sponsorship dues from Byju’s to the BCCI. Ganguly who has handled the fastest of bowlers with ease on the cricket pitch, was floored by this unexpected bouncer from the political bigwigs.
We can guess now that Ganguly must have been under enormous pressure to join the BJP when the state elections were held in West Bengal in 2021. He would have been a prize catch and his presence in the party would have swayed the opinion of millions of his ardent fans. But Ganguly did a balancing act and refused to lean towards one side or the other. Ganguly remained friendly with both the TMC leader Mamata Banerjee and the BJP bigwigs. But it seems that his upright attitude has cost him his post now.
Former all rounder Roger Binny will soon become the new President of the BCCI and he is a capable person. But one cannot help feeling sorry for one of India’s best captains who has been treated in a shabby manner at the reported behest of the BJP.
But Ganguly has overcome hurdles before in his career. He got the better of Coach Greg Chappell after a tussle and Ganguly also came back with flying colours after his axing from the Indian team. This time too, he should not be written off easily. The BJP may find that they have shot themselves in the foot because now all of Ganguly’s devoted supporters in Bengal will turn their backs decisively on the saffron party.