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An Indian making the most of life in sports-crazed Melbourne

Far Pavilions

Leading the men and lagging with form

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Comparing Mark Taylor and Sourav Ganguly

When you think of how test cricket has been rejuvenated from the lethargic pace of the game in the early 90's to the more result-oriented contests in recent times, Mark Taylor and his team of prodigious performers should rightfully be credited for leading this revolution. With an imposing stature in physique and fortitude, Taylor was a cricketing Gorbachev, bringing in a much needed perestroika to the wan world of international test cricket. In a time when most teams idly contemplated compiling large scores over many days and looking at individual records as ends in themselves, Taylor brought back a forgotten tradition of dominating the opposition—often overwhelming them—with a scorching scoring rate, wicket-hunting field settings and a relentless pursuit of victory for his team.

In a different setting, India, reeling from the woes of the match-fixing scandal of 2000, found just the right man to rebuild its fortunes. With many stars in its batting galaxy and a comet-like bunch of inconsistent bowlers, the threat of implosion for the Indian cricket team could never have been greater than in the new millennium. In came Sourav Ganguly. A man who favoured the off-side with his willow and showed no favouritism to his players for their mother tongue or city of origin. Ganguly revolutionised the way cricket was played and talent was chosen at the national level. However, his most significant contribution over the last few years has been in channelising the energies of individual stars to produce winning results like no other Indian captain.

Taylor and Ganguly have both been talented southpaws. Both have drawn respect for their astute leadership. Both have also had criticisms levelled against them. Taylor was accused of being parsimonious in sharing the credit for his team’s success with his team-mates. Ganguly's ‘attitude’ has caused consternation to opposition and administrators alike. Of late, Ganguly has also drawn another dubious similarity he would rather not have—leading his team through a personal form slump.

From December 1995 to March 1997, Taylor led Australia through 13 tests without a century and a batting average 25.54. An opening batsman, he had an unmemorable time scoring all but two 50s in this 16 month period. What helped him survive through this phase was victories in 8 of those 13 test matches. He didn’t strive for many draws--he lost the other five matches.

For Ganguly, after the knock of 144 in Brisbane, which set the tempo of the classic 2003-2004 series against Australia, the 13 matches that followed for him has yielded 580 runs at a personal batting average of 32.22. Ganguly has had three 50s in this 16 month period. 6 of the 13 matches during Ganguly's poor run with the bat have resulted in victories, although two of those victories came against Bangladesh. Of the remaining seven, three have resulted in losses and four were drawn.

Taylor broke through his slump in form with a 2nd innings century in the opening test of the 1997 Ashes tour in June in Birmingham. After that effort, he went on to score 4 more centuries, the biggest of them being an unbeaten triple-century against Pakistan at Peshawar. The Peshawar match was made memorable by Taylor for his brilliant knock and also for a more old-fashioned gesture. Not wanting to surpass the highest test score of 334 by Don Bradman, Taylor chose to respectfully declare when he reached that same figure. Taylor retired in 1999 at the age of 34, leaving his team and personal form in a state of high, and passing on the mantle to his worthy successor, Steve Waugh.

Many of Ganguly's contributions to Indian cricket are not easily measured. Improving the team morale, identifying and nurturing talent, cutting down team politics--in these intangibles, Ganguly's contributions stand taller than that of most other Indian players of any era. One hopes that he will resurrect his personal form as Taylor did. It would be an unedifying sight to see the Prince of Kolkata leave the test arena with the batting form of a pauper.


I really enjoyed the article. It was well written and well compared. I can see that you have a real passion for cricket. Great stuff. Keep analysing and keep writing.
Thank you for the readership and the kind words!
Very well written article.Very appropriate comparison.If only Ganguly can emulate Taylor's comeback performance!
:D we all hope gangulya can emulate mark taylor

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