“Right decision mate; and kudos to you once again for your guts to step off the crease to caress the cherry flying high over the rope for the last time!
“I’m proud of you, as I have always been.”
In fact, Maharaj’s judgment to call it a day took me back to our school days. It was time when St. Xavier’s and Jadavpur High School happened to be the fiercest of opponents on the turf. And both Maharaj and his team and I and my team would lock horn in the CAB league, Thums UP trophy, etc. Not only that but also our camping together at the Eden Gardens for the Bengal School squad remains fresh till date on my mind.
Then onwards Maharaj made it to the big, bigger and biggest leagues gradually and quite deservingly as, from the word go, he had in him what it takes to separate a real talent from the herd of average like me.
As a cricketer Maharaj’s rise had always been phenomenal, so had his flight to captaincy. When he was asked to lead the Indian cricket team, the team was perhaps on its all time low. Thanks to the betting scandal and the subsequent departure of the great players like Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja, etc. off the pitch.
Given this situation, even when the brave heart Sachin denied accepting the throne of thorn, nothing could deter Maharaj to take the responsibility and sit pretty on it as if he’s on the cushion of roses.
He built the team almost single-handedly, backed up the juniors, and for the first time in the Indian cricketing history created successfully the Brand: TEAM INDIA.
The TEAM INDIA’s demolition on the mighty Aussies became a cause of national pride that actually and factually set the tone of “We can” that eventually took the team even to the world cup final in South Africa after 1983.
Maharaj and his all team members were like a happy family that time. But there Maharaj started to commit the greatest blunders of his life one after another.
First, he took the side of a Ranji player of Maharashtra Abhijit Kale by stating tactlessly in media, “No cricketer can take the risk of framing any selector if there is no truth,” when Kale framed Kiron More for taking handsome bribe from him to help Kale secure a place in the national team. May be, Maharaj said it as he was always spontaneous and loved to talk his mind, but More had other thoughts, which he proved later on by giving back Maharaj the price (with due interests) for those loose words.
Next, Maharaj made another blunder when he actually voted in favour of his and his beloved TEAM INDIA’s nemesis the grand and great Greg Chappell. But, that time Maharaj was thinking of the bigger cause of generating high-voltage success in the world cup 2007, blending his aggression with Chappell’s power. But alas! Chappell had other intention and vested interest.
Intelligent Maharaj was totally outfoxed there by the sly and cunning Chappell. During the honeymoon period with Maharaj, Chappell guessed it right that if Maharaj was out or kept under tremendous mental pressure then the TEAM INDIA’s chance of winning the world cup would come down to zero. As a result of that, the Aussies could enjoy a cakewalk in the cup and take home the trophy, putting no significant efforts.
Sensing that, he started to play his card accordingly that started with his below-par-gentle email - sent to Mr. Ranbir at the BCCI against Maharaj from Zimbabwe.
The last but four and three paragraphs of Chappell’s email read respectively as –
“This team has been made to be fearful and distrusting by the rumour mongering and deceit that is Sourav's modus operandi of divide and rule. Certain players have been treated with favour, all of them bowlers, while others have been shunted up and down the order or left out of the team to suit Sourav's whims.
“John Wright obviously allowed this to go on to the detriment of the team. I am not prepared to sit back and allow this to continue or we will get the same results we have been seeing for some time now.”
Utter rubbish! To prove this email as nothing but Chappell’s crap, none other than Harbhajan opened his mouth big and honestly while the indomitable Shikh was quoted refuting -
“I have played for almost five years under the captaincy of Ganguly and never felt like that. In fact, he takes personal interest to boost each and every player during practice as well as during a match.
“Ganguly has rebuilt this team and whatever the team has achieved so far, credit goes to the captain.”
Singh continued to bash Chappell’s baseless allegation as the shrewd Aussie’s quirk –
“Not only me but no other player was aware of Chappell complaining against Sourav. We were all shocked to know about the issue after landing in India.
“After the controversy over Chappell's reported suggestion to Sourav to step down from captaincy, everything seemed normal as Chappell himself had said the controversy is over and now everyone should concentrate on the game and I don't know what prompted Chappell to send an e-mail to the Board against the captain.
“As far as I am concerned, as a senior member of the team, I will reveal the truth if the Board asks for the same. I have lot to reveal about the Zimbabwe tour but I will do so only at the appropriate time and at an appropriate level.”
And being asked to compare former coach John Wright and Chappell, Harbhjan added to his punch in a lighter vein, “Anybody can judge it from the on-going controversies.”
Actually, Chappell did everything keeping a longer interest in mind for the Aussies. Just the reason, he was quite cleverly also trying to blunt the other edges of the Indian lethal swords, precisely Irfan, in the name of his “team for the future” experimentation. To be precise, Irfan’s deadly swing was totally vanished as he was guided by Chappell to bat more than bowl, which earned Irfan nothing in the world cup 2007… and Irfan is still struggling to get those sinful parabola back in action while he delivers the leather.
And once the world cup 2007 got over, the wily Chappell realised his job was quite well done, if not accomplished fully. Now before he got unmasked, quite willingly he even challenged Sachin’s integrity. He knew it for a fact that if he could stand up on Sachin’s toes, he won’t be spared and he wanted this spat badly to get a reason to escape from India as soon as possible. Chappell desperately needed this break to cool his heels away from the Indian’s heat of wrath.
Again our great politicians and wise board members at BCCI altogether fell prey to Chappell’s well-crafted resignation drama and let him flee rather gleefully to come back again to Jaipur even more smilingly to extend his damage, now at the grass root level of the Indian cricket fraternity.
Not to wonder!
Because that’s us, and our characters of believing in that only the whites know everything better than us, thus it’s our birth and democratic rights to suffer from colonial hangover forever.
Otherwise, instead of slamming a midget cricketer like Flintoff of England for his mid-finger raise and bare chest display in India, we wouldn’t have tried to pin down Maharaj for the wagging of his jersey at the Lord’s balcony after the Natwest Win.
Some bloggers had also written that this act of Maharaj was against India’s culture and sophistication to the outside world but those culture conscious and sophisticated bloggers couldn’t afford to be ashamed (perhaps that time they were busy buying their underwear) of the issues like Ram Mandir, Babri Masjid demolition, etc. - where those bloody incidents had truly made the entire India strip in front of the world.
However, “Maharaj you have always been the prince of Kolkata, the King of India and the Lord of the Lords, so start your new innings on a high decibel. The cricket needs you minus the crickets. Hence roar aloud once again as a commentator or as an administrator, as a selector or as a coach, and above else as a simple human.”
Finally, “Maharaj, bhalo thakish!” (“Maharaj, keep well!”)