Ganguly laments India performance but urges critics to keep the faith


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The Independent Online

Sourav Ganguly, one of India's most successful captains, believes his old team sunk to a new low earlier this week. But he has urged fans and critics alike to show them some patience – and insisted that now is not the time to make sweeping changes.

Ganguly, now almost as popular a broadcaster as he was a player with the folks back home, has looked on in dismay while England have battered opponents who may lose their right to be called the world's No 1 Test side in a matter of hours, rather than days.

And Thursday – when India dropped catches, bowled without menace and allowed England to cruise to 456 for three – made the worst viewing, so far, for Ganguly.

"I agree (with the criticism), and let us accept we were very ordinary," said the man who made three Test tours of this country, scored three centuries and averaged 65 across those visits. "The worst day was Thursday. I have not seen an Indian team like this in the last 10 years."

Reasons put forward for India's painfully poor showing in this series have been many and varied – ranging from fatigue to a lack of interest in Test cricket from players who can, and do, earn much more money through appearing in the Indian Premier League.

According to Ganguly, though, a lack of preparation is the likeliest cause. "You cannot just turn up and win Test series against good sides," he said in an interview on the BBC's Test Match Special programme.

"I've felt that when we guys from the subcontinent went to England, Australia or South Africa we needed two warm-up games (India had just the one practice match before this series). And look at England in Australia a few months ago: they had three proper warm-up games and had other guys out there as well on standby."

But, according to Ganguly, there is no need to cut back on the IPL to create more space – for rest or preparation – and he cannot see any sense in the idea that the end of this series should also see the curtain brought down on the careers of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.

"We have a tour of Australia this winter and really need to take the likes of Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman there," said the former captain. "This is the first series we have done poorly, home or away, for the last seven or eight years. It is just one of those series that haven't gone well for India.

"But, yes, it is disappointing because I can tell you that, as Indians, we really look forward to this tour. People like Dravid and Tendulkar take a lot of pride in performing over here.

"Test cricket matters to us. Indian people still want their team to be No 1 in Test cricket. The World Cup is special for any country. But Test cricket is THE format of the game."

Whatever the final score in this series – and Ganguly suggested India will do extremely well to avoid a 4-0 whitewash – it will be the job of Duncan Fletcher, India's former England coach, to put this team back on track.

Some see it as an impossible task – an outsider trying to cope with huge personalities who have seen, done and heard it all before. But Ganguly insists Fletcher could be in for a treat. "These are very mature boys," he said.

"And I guarantee you, Duncan Fletcher will have a good time looking after them. He's had a tough time so far this series. But I bet once they start winning he will have a great time because they are well behaved, professional people."

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