We preferred the guillotine to the red carpet, offered a lonely waiting room not a warm handshake. Alas! When the time comes for a member of the family to leave, we go to see them off, hand over a gift, maybe, and always wish them well. This is courtesy. When the hard decision has been taken, courtesy must take over.
We let ourselves down.
A decision to end the career of a fine performer and former leader is not taken in 20 minutes, donít let anybody kid you into believing that. This decision would have been preceded by informal discussions, a meeting maybe, at least a day before. The match was sewn up, there was enough time to speak to Ganguly and offer him a polite exit; to allow him to lead his team on and off the field.
Certainly he deserved that option. We show our culture in the manner we treat those that depart, not as much those that arrive.
Sadly, Ganguly cannot realistically hope to find his way back into this team. When you are armed with a telescope you donít look behind and I will be surprised if he is part of the debate at future selection committee meetings. He needs to blast the door open or hope the power structure changes again and, after the annual spring cleaning, there is a more favourable committee to decide on his future. By then the fire might well be spent.
In all fairness, the manner of his inclusion in the first place was wrong. He had to make it among the seven best batsmen or not at all. There was a diktat and no wordplay can hide that. But a wrong to undo another wrong isnít a sign of distinction; an eye for an eye will hurt everybody. You will hear people say that there is no sentiment in sport. Of course there is. A touch of sadness, a bit of joy, a lump in the throat and hope in the breast, that is what we watch and play sport for. Take away sentiment and emotion and sport grows cold.
You may or may not agree with his exclusion but there is at least thought in it. If his performance in Zimbabwe was an indicator, he would have struggled against pace and, truth be told, he probably would not have made that team unless there was a huge hundred at Ahmedabad. And India needed Yuvraj to play as much Test cricket as possible while in this kind of form.
But we offered Ganguly a lifeline, even if some believed inappropriately, and we needed to see it through.
While one player is shown the exit, another will march through the front door in style. Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly are both tough cricketers but they make a study in contrast. The resolute trier versus the temperamental performer, strength and silence versus flamboyance. Kumbleís has been a staggering career and it will now be a hundred test matches old.
Over the last 15 years he has gone about his job with great commitment and resolve; with hardly a tantrum and with one of the largest hearts you will see. Such people exist too. Like Mr Sreedharan who, without a fuss, builds an underground railway system in the heart of Delhi. Like our various election commissioners who conduct elections in Bihar and Kashmir without calling photographers and boasting about their feats. Like Anil Kumble.
These are the real pillars of India. They give modesty its rightful place.
We must admire Kumbleís work ethic, emulate his perseverance and marvel at his aggression. I havenít heard him complain and he was left out of the one-day side too. He needs to be Indiaís vice-captain in Test matches and should be on the BCCIís cricket committee now. He will give nothing less to it than he has given for India on the field.
In his 99th Test match, he has taken 10 wickets and is actually going through a purple patch just now. The leg break to get Samaraweera and the slow loopy spin that got Atapattu were brilliant deliveries and showed their possessor has a very keen inquisitive mind. That has been Kumbleís strength and it is something a younger generation, within sport and outside, could well emulate.
Now he approaches a magnificent hundred and I will be very interested in seeing how Indian cricket rewards this humble giant. But there will be respect in the home and away dressing room and after the fickleness of fame and prosperity have been dusted away that is what a performer wants to possess. Kumble will have it forever.
When he is through with the game every Indian cricket lover must stand up and applaud. Even if the system merely gives him an economy ticket back to Bangalore.