A man of moods

Sourav, a biography, By Gulu Ezekiel, A Penguin Original, Price Rs. 250.

S. DINAKAR

SOURAV GANGULY is often his own man, makes his own rules and plays his own way. Just the sort of person who would evoke strong reactions. Gulu Ezekiel attempts a closer look at this man in his biography, an endeavour that evokes mixed response. The author, whose last book was Sachin: The Story of the World's Greatest Batsman, started his foray into sports journalism in 1982, and, after a meandering journey, launched G.E. Features, a feature and syndicate company in 2001.

Ezekiel talks to those close to Ganguly, draws a lot of material from a variety of sources, and glimpses at the man and his methods through other people's eyes.

"Sourav, right from his schooldays, was a born champion. In fact, as early as in May 1997, I had written that he would be India's ideal captain," says Raju Mukherji, that accomplished batsman of yore from Bengal.

Remembers Sourav's coach Debu Mitra — "Sourav called me when he came back from the disastrous Australian tour of 1991-92. He was almost crying on the phone. "Debu da, please watch me at the nets. A lot of things have gone wrong with my batting."

England and Lancashire all-rounder Ian Austin says about Ganguly in his book — Bully for You, Oscar: The Life and Times of Ian Austin: "He failed to make a hundred in the championship (for Lancashire), a record that speaks for itself. Some of the ways he got out (were) pretty average, to say the least... The lads did their best to make him feel welcome, part of the dressing room. They offered to take him out in the evenings, but he doesn't want to know. Before long, the feeling was that if he couldn't be bothered to make the effort, neither could we. There was no bust-up. He just went his way and we went ours."

Former Hampshire cricketer and now television commentator Mark Nicholas: "Intelligent and fiercely proud, he cares not a jot for the opinion of others. There is something of Douglas Jardine's bloody-mindedness in Ganguly which gives the clearest message to his players: "We are not here to be pushed around, the days of subservience are gone."

Indeed, the book relies heavily on published material and quotes as it traces the life and times of Ganguly; his days as a Maharaj born into a wealthy family, his early tryst with football, early promise as a stylish southpaw, unexpected entry into the Indian team in '91 and the subsequent banishment from the international arena, the runaway wedding with childhood sweetheart Dona, the furore over his selection to the England-bound Indian side in '96, the glorious comeback at Lord's, those efforts of sublime off-side touch and class, troubled times at Lancashire, elevation as India skipper in 2000, historic home Test series victory over Australia in 2001, his strong-willed ways at the helm, the run-ins with the match-referees, worrying losses of form and problems against short-pitched bowling from the quicks, heady triumphs in the NatWest and the ICC Champions Trophies, dispute with the authorities over player contracts and sponsorships, controversies and pressures of captaincy.

Also interesting is Ganguly admission that he would have called it quits from cricket in a year had he not earned a recall to the Indian side in '96, something that reveals the huge hand of fate in shaping his career.

A man of moods, the uncompromising Ganguly can be a fascinating case study. The book only succeeds in parts.