Ganguly in elite company

PTI

The comeback and the success that followed are an indication that Ganguly still possesses enough professional as well as personal pride. He is in the evening of his career but what is important is that he seems to be enjoying himself on the field.

The “Prince of Kolkata” joins the select band of cricketers who have played 100 Tests and this momentous occasion at the MCG would have been an emotional one for the former skipper. Even the toughest of individuals have felt a tug on their emotional chords on their 100th appearance and it would not have beeen any different for Sourav Ganguly. His career has had as many twists and turns as a popular espionage movie and one must admire the Bengali for the way he has handled the highs and lows of his career.

After an unhappy start in Australia in 1991-92, Sourav spent four years in the wilderness. He had to slog it out in domestic cricket during that phase. He got picked for the tour of England in 1996. The pressure was on him to deliver as his inclusion was ruthlessly criticised by many in the fraternity. The criticism in part was unfair but his response was something out of a fairy tale.

The Prince announced his arrival in international cricket at Lord’s with a century on debut and followed it up with another century in the next Test to prove that he was not a flash in the pan. The graceful left-hander had to wait a while to get an opportunity in the one-dayers though he was a permanent fixture in the Tests. Eventually when he was thrust in as an opener in the one-dayers, “Dada” forged an outstanding partnership with the little master, Sachin Tendulkar and provided many flying starts to Team India.

The script took yet another turn when Sachin Tendulkar relinquished his captaincy and the mantle was given to Sourav Ganguly. It was a tough time for a new captain to take over given that the match fixing scandal cast aspersions on any uncertainty that was and is considered synonymous with cricket. Besides, Sourav Ganguly had the onerous task of nurturing youngsters and making men out of them. Ganguly as a captain was refreshingly aggressive and backed his players to the hilt. The remarkable fact about his captaincy was his courage in taking decisions. He kept his own counsel and was undeterred when his decisions were proved wrong at times.

His tenure as captain and his working relationship with John Wright saw a lot of positive changes in Indian cricket. The captain was aggressive while Wright was the calming influence which worked well enough as India did well in both forms of the game. Though Ganguly was a success as a captain, his form with the bat started dipping and it came to a stage when the selectors started thinking of dropping him for the Tests. However, the thought was not implemented and then the bubble burst after Greg Chappell took over as the coach. Obviously, both Ganguly and Chappell were strong headed and there was no room for both of them in the same tent.

Chappell had his way in the end and one must say that Ganguly was dropped for the right reasons and even Ganguly in hindsight would accept the decision without any rancour. Yet again the high profile “Dada” found himself out in the cold and the general consensus was that he should retire gracefully. A combination of poor performance from the Indian batsmen and lack of options forced the selectors to fall back on the experience of Ganguly for the tour of South Africa prior to the last World Cup. The Bengal tiger rewrote his script and since his return to international cricket, he has been scoring runs by the ton. Ganguly walked away with the Man of the Series award in the recent series against Pakistan and he would be keen to notch up runs in Australia as well.

The elegant left-hander has been delighting the spectators with his graceful strokeplay through the off side for a decade now but he will have a special place in Indian cricket more for his contribution as a captain. He made Team India aggressive and but for his support, the career graphs of Sehwag, Harbhajan and Yuvraj might have been different. It is little wonder that these guys cried hoarse when their mentor was not in the line up for a year. The “Prince of Kolkata” has loads of fans but what is significant is that he has faithful followers in the dressing room which is very rare for a former captain.

Ganguly’s strong headed approach as a captain might have miffed many but there is no doubt that the ambidextrous cricketer from Bengal has shown a lot of character right through his career. He chose to bide his time to make a comeback and prove a point or two while he had many lucrative options to choose. The comeback and the success that followed are an indication that Ganguly still possesses enough professional as well as personal pride. He is in the evening of his career but what is important is that he seems to be enjoying himself on the field.