A small note midwayRahul Dravid must be feeling like someone who's found himself on a roller coaster that's descending rapidly. A week ago, he couldn't do anything wrong (except call a declaration) and now he must be the first to nervously ponder over his decision to bat first at Lahore. It must have been a 50-50 decision, but it was quite a brave option to take. Image-wise, it further adds to his tag of being "bold" and "forward thinking" (but I've noticed that stand-in captains are usually that way). I think everyone overdid the "invincibility" of the Indian batting lineup - this was a good wakeup call. It was good to see that there was the now customary fightback in the lower middle order, but India find themselves in the position of having to produce a 2nd innings score that will ensure their safety and if they score fast enough, even challenge the opposition. (They haven't had to do this for a while, last time against Windies, IIRC). Notice my optimism here, but no reason why they can't. Especially, if they want to be known as a great Test side, for it isn't always about winning with an innings to spare.
The talking point has been of course the muddle over the likely selection conflict with Ganguly's return. I was extremely appalled to read in Ayaz Memon's TOI column today that a selector thought the team should've forestalled the problem by picking 5 bowlers (implying that Yuvraj should've been left out). Absolutely incredible! If you share misapprehensions about the quality of our selectors, you have every reason to. That one of these guys could actually consider jeopardising a Test match to be rid of selection dilemmas is shocking. Why could he not suggest that Ganguly not show undue haste (Ganguly can clearly see, IMHO, history being made without him and he's desperate to be a part of the action) in announcing his return? Perhaps a quiet word to the skipper to lay low, maybe even say he wouldn't be totally fit so as to refrain from upsetting the balance? The problem is Ganguly is in that dangerous zone every captain faces now and then, where teams do better without him. It is critical for him to produce a performance to retain a place, especially since it's tough for him to produce the "the team needs me to captain them" argument all the time. Surely he knows this. Hopefully, he will produce the goods as batsman, for he's even less likely to improve his fielding and dive around now!
This turn of events could easily bring about Harish's plans for Yuvraj to open: Chopra replaced by Yuvraj and Ganguly back at 6. I don't agree of course, not yet. I feel that Yuvraj has a quality that very few of the big boys of the Indian lineup have: he plays well with the tail. Especially given that India now seem to bat till 9 or even 10, it's very crucial for one major batsman to be around with them. Additionally, Harish's push is in keeping with the Aussie model. I think Sehwag can do the Hayden role, in fact he overdoes it. Chopra may not be the most technically sound opener, but he knows the role and his running-between-the-wickets is good. Plus, I have a theory that Aussies operate with 3 openers at two different slots. Langer-Hayden at the top, and Gilchrist at 7. Gilchrist gives them an opener-like performance, usually against the new ball and psychologically affects teams when they think they're into the tail. Yuvraj could easily do that role - it would give him more hits against his favoured fast bowlers. As for Ganguly, I would love to see him walk out to open in the next test - he loves to make a statement or two, and how would that be like! Though you have to say, if Chopra is out, it will have to be Laxman or Dravid or Yuvraj to open. Perhaps even Patel. As for Yuvraj and opening, for the last few months, I strongly feel he should open in ODIs (I know right now the slot is not vacant), but I think he'll explode into a great ODI batsman at #1 or #2 just like Sachin did.
Coming back to images, Ganguly's own on-field machinations and reputation as a canny figure means that whenever there's a controversy, people tend to be suspicious of him. On the other hand, SRT & Dravid enjoy such "gentlemanly" images that they can get away with murder, as has happened a couple of times. I think people need to be more gracious to everyone. Though, if the Indian team management wants to be known as a ruthless and "team first" outfit, it's hard to see what else they can do apart from leaving Ganguly out of the XI. Dravid found himself facing the harsh glare alone after the declaration controversy, though at first everyone said that they "put the team above individuals". Having taken that stand, will they have the guts to follow that policy for another big name? Declaring when they did, in the end analysis, was a relatively soft decision. This one may actually decide the series, unless Ganguly can silence the loud whispers. Whether it's mind over heart will be interesting to see. The biggest favour his boys (Yuvraj included) can do for the beleagured captain is to settle the series in Lahore itself and make it an easy call!