Aniruddha Sen is a Senior Scientific Officer at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. Writing articles and stories in English and Bengali and translating is his serious hobby. He is a very active writer for welovesourav group.
A Few Defining Moments from the Annals of Sourav Ganguly
It was June, 1996. Indian cricket team was touring England. After losing the ODI series 2-0, it was mauled in the first test by 8 wickets with one and half days to spare. There was clearly a void at the top order. Other than Tendulkar, no recognized Indian batsman could stand the fire of the English pace attack.
Two rookies were playing well in India's county matches, often stemming the rot after 4/5 down. One was Sourav Ganguly. After playing a single ODI in 1992, he was dropped for not willing to carry drinks, a cock-and-bull story. When he was selected for the touring team, every who's who in Indian cricket labelled him a 'regional quota'. The other rookie was Rahul Dravid, who had played a few ODIs before, without much success. In desperation, team management inducted the two into the second test squad.
Sourav Ganguly was a batsman-all rounder, coming usually as number 5 or 6. He however was promoted to number 3. The intention was to sacrifice him to the formidable English pace attack and let Tendulkar and Azhar, the mainstay of the then Indian batting bat only after the shine was off the ball. Another one-match stint for another rookie, it seemed.
Well, the rookie had another idea. He scored a gallant century (131) while Rahul Dravid missed it by 5. They put India well past England for a creditable draw. To prove that it was not a fluke, Ganguly repeated the feat in the 3rd test with another century (136) that gave India another creditable draw. Ganguly topped the batting average (105). After that there was no stopping him - for nine more years at least.
It was March, 2002. India was trounced 2-0 in the test series by a strong South African touring team and the captain Sachin Tendulkar had decided to step down from captaincy, realizing it was not his cup of tea. Sourav Ganguly was in great ODI form, totaling more than 4400 runs in the past three years. He was handed over ad-hoc captaincy - again 'a favor from Dalmiya'. However it was wistfully predicted that the stint would last only till the end of the series, as the strong South Africa was expected to whitewash India.
Again Ganguly had a different idea. He led India to a 3-2 victory and led it from the front - by topping the Indian batting with an aggregate of 285 and at an average of 71.25. Very soon the match fixing scandal came into the fore and heads rolled. Aghast, people lost interest in 'stage-managed' cricket. Ganguly, the leader saw Indian cricket through that dark period and by the time the mantle would be snatched from his able hands by the conspirators, he would lead India to 21 test victories and to the finals of three ICC tournaments, among other things.
In December 2006 Indian cricket had once again hit the nadir, thanks to able hands of the coach Greg Chappell. Among the past 21 ODIs they had managed to win only 4 and had lost 12 that included a first round exit in ICC Champion's trophy at home and a 4-0 whitewash against South Africa.
Sourav Ganguly was sent to South Africa, against the grumpy wish of the coach. Again there was a furor that it was a 'political favor' from Sharad pawar, to 'please his Marxist allys'. Well, what happened next is all history and too recent to recount. To make the long story short, he immediately brought India on winning track and ultimately scored 3241 internationalruns more in 2 years (1991 in test @46.3 and 1240 in ODI @44.3, both an improvement of his previous average). His career was then again compromised by some more subtle manipulations - but not before he became a legend in his lifetime, a synonym for comeback. So much so that one may now ask, "Can the world economy do a Ganguly?"
Sourav Ganguly has retired. Let me not ask if a person that stood firm time and again against odds to salvage the national pride deserved better from the cricketing authorities. Well, this is India and we are not surprised. But what still remains an enigma is - what makes a Sourav Ganguly?
The answers may vary. But my picks are two - the heart at the right place and a no-nonsense approach. He was passionate about 'Team India' succeeding and for realizing that goal he always looked at the 'bird's eye' that was win at any cost. He ignored everything else for that. As a captain he looked at the potential of a player and not at his region, religion or social strata. For winning he never hesitated to sacrifice his career and the 'good boy' image, if that could advance the cause of the team by an inch. He never hesitated to deliberately delay the game to rest his bowlers and invite suspension on him. In South Africa if he couldn't duck the bouncers he took the hits on his body, in order to frustrate the quickies.
The country is going through a difficult phase and the leadership quality is clearly wanting. Can someone take a few cues from Sourav Ganguly?