The present age cricket lovers may look at him as a legend. Sourav Ganguly, spent a lifetime in achieving that status, transforming the attitude of the Indians towards the game.
He created a bunch of self-believers which set about to tame the cricket world. Befittingly, his journey has ended on a glowing note, with a series win at home against world champion Australia.
Ganguly’s was a most colourful career. When he walked into the Eden Gardens as a teenager, his influential father was credited with the selection, though he had won his place on merit.
When he was picked for India, it was said the ‘quota’ system worked in his favour. The critics did not realise that he had earned his place again on merit.
He shut them up with a century on Test debut at Lord’s in 1996. A fascinating career was launched at the home of cricket and Ganguly’s love with the game blossomed as he took gigantic strides, culminating in 7212 Test runs (16 centuries and an average of 42.17) and 11363 in ODIs (22 centuries, average of 41.02).
He tormented bowlers with his languid style, scaled new peaks and set new benchmarks. He was destiny’s gift to Indian cricket.
His mental toughness and self-belief were two qualities unknown to a bunch of cricketers who more often than not had come to depend on one man — Sachin Tendulkar — to deliver. Ganguly changed that mindset!
Praise will be heaped on him now as he, most grudgingly, walks away from the Indian dressing room.
But he has grieved in silence. Umpires, match referees, not to forget the opponents, have had their share of tiffs with Ganguly, who, at best, had only been the front man for the team.
Never the one to shirk responsibility, he smilingly accepted the blame for debacles, shared the credit in triumphs and won a legion of fans — the most loyal of them being within the team.
“He taught us to win overseas,” said V.V.S. Laxman.
He was rightly known as India’s only players’ captain.
And he was a shining exception to the parochialism factor that has dogged most India captains.
His torso baring T-shirt-swinging act at Lord’s was a reflection of times, a strong statement of a young India that believed in aggression.
When he kept Steve Waugh waiting for the toss he was only carrying out a planned tactic. He beat the Aussies at their own game — aggression, sledging and playing cricket the hard way.
He was most passionate about the game, but Ganguly had his shortcomings too. If he did not appreciate a player, he would not lose time in ‘exposing’ him.
His dislike for left-arm spinners was well-known too. Confirmation can be had from Sunil Joshi, Murali Kartik, Nilesh Kulkarni, Venkatapathy Raju and Rahul Sanghvi.
Dropped in January 2006 for non-cricketing reasons, Ganguly played some amazing cricket in his second phase nine months and seven Tests later, hitting four centuries, including his maiden double hundred (239 against Pakistan).
He played domestic cricket at nondescript venues to stay focussed and his comeback was a saga worthy of the man. In the process, he won a ‘personal’ battle against Greg Chappell, the Aussie who spat such venom through an e-mail to the BCCI. “That e-mail changed my life” Ganguly was to confess.
“Fed up” with repeated humiliations, Ganguly chose a graceful exit. He wants to look after his cricket academy which has a team of 30 coaches and devote time to family. Perhaps “drive Sana (daughter) to school,” as he puts it.
He was a bowler’s nightmare but a delight for the spectators. Ganguly has been the most successful Indian captain thus far (21-13 win-loss record in 49 Tests; he had just three losses at home) and a legend in contemporary cricket.
Indian cricket will miss the character that Ganguly was.
7 months ago