Bobilli Vijay Kumar
NAGPUR: A dream debut. A fairytale ending. Sadly, it didn’t exactly turn out that way. Sourav Ganguly was just 15 runs away from a perfect ending to
his gripping but tumultuous career when a thin edge came along and stole his thunder.
But then isn't that how the Sourav story has unfolded over the last 17 years? How could it end without a touch of bitter-sweet irony? The irony, like it has always been in his case, doesn't end here though; in fact, it might not really be all over yet.
Yes, the virgin track here at the new VCA stadium, true to form, has already swayed from one extreme mood to the other: after being all lovey-dovey towards batsmen on the first day, she showered her affection on spinners just after lunch.
By the evening, though, she went back to her first love; so now you can't be sure who she will eventually grant her favours too. It is, therefore, quite possible that Ganguly would get another shot at completing his fairytale. After all, isn't he the original destiny's child?
Indeed, right from the beginning, Ganguly has been a man of second chances. He made his international debut in 1992 but was immediately sent back to his palace: there was no place for the Maharaja among the commoners.
Four years later, though, he came back and made his dream debut in Tests; his magical timing and divine drives catapulted him into the elite class straightaway. But then, equally quickly, bowlers noted his hate-hate relationship with bouncers.
Even as vicious rumours were spreading, Ganguly was carving a place for himself elsewhere: in One-dayers. With severe restrictions on the use of short-pitched deliveries here, he used his hand-eye superiority to reinvent himself. Soon, he became the other part of a formidable opening pair with Tendulkar.
By 2000, Indian cricket had been through a catharsis. Shortly after Tendulkar's misadventure with captaincy, Azharuddin came back to the helm; but then, the match-fixing scourge emerged from its dark alleys.
Tendulkar, then, had another torrid affair with the crown before he gave it away. Dravid was in the race too but then Ganguly, really, is the man with all the chances. He took over and breathed a new life, and a new fighting spirit, into the team. Steadily, he created a mean machine and India were winning matches abroad too; almost inevitably, he became the country's most successful captain.
The black clouds were, however, gathering again. Entrapped in a destructive cocoon created by himself, he was soon scampering for runs, form and friends. As irony would have it, the one man who he thought would help him, turned against him.
As the fight with Greg Chappell spilled over, Ganguly found himself in the black corner: alone, bitter and exposed. Eventually, he was haunted out of the team, and seemingly, there was no way back. Only that nobody realized the power of his second chance.
As the Indian run-machine sputtered in South Africa, the selectors turned to him again. After a dramatic, and not so welcome return, he rediscovered his form, friends and appetite for short-pitched bowling.
It wasn't easy but he braved through this tough phase with grit and steadfastness. On Friday, as he battled for his fairytale finish, he displayed the same grit and determination all over again. He took his time to re-gauge the pitch and recover the middle of his bat; once that was achieved he went about looking for his elegance and beautiful shots.
As the day progressed, he found most of them: a delicate breeze through the covers, a soaring six over long on, delicate flicks, glances and a couple of late cuts too. In the end it was a virtuoso display, nearly reminiscent of the old Ganguly.
It's just so ironic that the fairytale ending eluded him; maybe, it is just the beginning of something equally beautiful.