New Delhi:Sourav Ganguly's inclusion in India's Test squad for the first two Tests against Australia on Wednesday evoked mixed reaction from former cricketers with some of them describing the move as a "step backwards" while the others hailing the decision.
Former Chief Selector Syed Kirmani welcomed Ganguly's selection, saying he deserved the place and strongly dismissed the suggestion that it was aimed at preparing the stage for his graceful exit.
"He (Ganguly) deserved this selection. It was expected, you cannot ignore such an experienced player. Ganguly is a source of inspiration to the youngeters," Kirmani said.
"There is nothing like the stage being prepared for him to exit international cricket gracefully. He still has a lot of cricket left in him," he added.
But former coach Madan Lal termed it as a backward move and said the place could have gone to Yuvraj Singh.
"I think it is a backward step. Not that he's a bad player but everyone has a time and many new players are waiting for their chance. But this selection committee has taken this stance," Madan said.
Asked if it indicated that the stage was being set for his formal exit, Madan Lal said "you make a team to win matches and not for planning people's farewell".
Madan felt instead Yuvraj could have been drafted into the team. "Yuvraj would have been the best candidate in his place".
But another former player Kirti Azad, a member of the 1983 World Cup winning squad, felt it was a "catch-22 situation".
"It's catch-22 situation because at first place Ganguly should not have been dropped from the Irani Trophy squad, and if he was not picked - which was legitimate according to me - same yardstick should have been used by the new selection committee as well," Azad said.
"Because of this difference one may think that Ganguly is being singled out. But what is more unfortunate is that our 'Fab four' have to leave the international stage in a year or two and there is no good replacement still.
"Yuvraj Singh has been a big failure despite been given so many chances. Test cricket is tough, it is not Twenty20 which is like two-minute noodles - tasty to eat, but has no nutrition," he added.
Former pace bowler Atul Wassan supported the K Srikkanth-led selection panel for giving Ganguly a chance in the team.
"I am all for it. I hope he goes on a high. They (selectors) must have talked to him and there must be an exit plan for him and there is no harm in that. If youngsters have waited for so long they can wait for another six months," Wassan said.
Kiran More, who was the first chief selector to remove Ganguly from the captaincy and then from the team during Greg Chappell's tenure as coach, said he was surprised that the new selectors had no long term plans.
"I am really surprised (by Ganguly's selection). He was not in the Rest of India team for the Irani Cup team nor in Board President's XI. There is no long term planning. We are going backward but we need to look ahead," he said.
"This is almost the same team that lost in Sri Lanka. Something is wrong somewhere," he said.
Former player and chief selector Chandu Borde said Ganguly was expected to be there in the squad as selectors were just trying out youngsters in the Irani Trophy.
"I don't understand why there is so much of fuss surrounding Ganguly's selection in the Test squad for the Australia series. I was always expecting him to be there and the fact that he was excluded from the Rest of India side in the Irani Trophy didn't mean an end to his career," he said.
"The selectors were trying out the youngsters by not picking him. One bad series (Sri Lanka) doesn't make him a bad cricketer. In the series before, he did very well having made a great comeback. I am sure he will play well and exploit the home conditions against Australia," he added.
Bengal coach Utpal Chatterjee said there was no reason for Ganguly to prove anything more to anyone but it was a good sign that he was picked in the squad.
"It's a very good sign that Sourav is there for the Australia series. He is an established player. He doesn't need to prove anything," he said.
On Ganguly's retirement, Chatterjee said, "It's not about his physical fitness but it's about how mentally strong Sourav is?"