Everyman has his heyday and suddenly finds himself in the bottomless pit. It applies to all walks of life and knowledge. Many bounce back with renewed vigour and regain the lost credentials.
Sports is as capricious as life itself. Diego Maradona,the epitome of sublime in soccer, was the prima donna at his peak before a row of reverses brought about his fall. Even while playing almost from memory he was amazing in 1996 World Cup before the drug scandal pushed him irretrievably into disgrace. In his case, the halo of fame and media's attention was oppressive and had a debilitating psychological effect. The fact remains that all these could never take away the enormous credit that the 86 Cup gave him or his enduring presence in the Hall of some of the greatest footballers in history.
Vivian Richards, one of Wisden's five greatest cricketers of the 20th Century, was easily the most destructive batsman the game has ever known. Ask any of the fast bowlers, most of them undeniably greats, from Dennis Lillee to Waqar Younis and they will doff their hats to him. His uncanny eye and reflexes put him yards ahead of the bowlers of his time. He held the ODI record of top score - 189 not out against England - which was made in the astonishing company of Mike Holding, whose contribution was a meagre 11.
Such was the man's absolute command over the game that a Windies team without him was unthinkable until he retired. Yet in 1992 World Cup the Windies Board just coldshouldered him when he wanted his fifth World Cup to be his swan song. This despite the fact outstanding contemporaries such as Mike Holding and Gordon Greenidge backed his claims earnestly. The incredible reason for his omission - it would be a retrograde step. Yes, it was looked upon as a retrograde step then because some talents were still lurking around in the Caribbean. Would they say it now when they lose a test by an astounding margin of 379 runs against Australia?
Extend this parallel to Sourav Ganguly. He started on song against England and everyone thought he had arrived. He did but the key technical flaws against genuine pace and swing were exposed only later. He was in no way a match to Viv except may be in his captaincy record where over 45% wins might come close to Viv's 50.
He was a successful ODI player with over 10000 runs but his test record in the last two years is unforgivably below par. His failure against Gilchrist team in the home series against a fullfledged Aussie attack was abysmal but more than that it exposed his technical inadequacy against quality pace attack. His Century in Brisbane in the previous series was a match winner but remember it was scored against a bowling attack without Warne and McGrath. It had Gillespie alone to marshal whatever was available.
What is the bottomline? When there are scores of talents available and Greg Chappell eager to harness them for the World Cup do we have to plumb for experience of Ganguly, especially when it is under a cloud? His media mishandling over Greg Chapell issue has already backfired on him in the context of popular response except in Kolkata for obvious reasons. He may scratch around like he did against Zimbabwe or in the recent series against Pakistan and get a few runs but what futuristic impact it will have is anybody's guess.
The question uppermost in cricketing terms is this - do we build a team for the future like Australia or get mired in past reputations?