The Commander In Chief – Article on How Sourav Ganguly Transformed India
Legend has it that he never wanted to be cricketer and only picked up the bat on insistence of his elder brother,who himself was first class cricketer,at the age of 15.Many of India’s precocious talents were already making their name in the domestic cricket by then.Within three years he made his debut for his Ranji Team and within a year and half he was picked for the Indian team to tour Australia in 1992.
That is where it all stopped for the man who was so very different from the other cricketers of his generation.Born in a well known,wealthy and politically connected family,things came easy to him.After that disastorous tour of Australia,where he played just one ODI and was dropped because of attitude peoblems,which roughly translated to his refusal to carry kitbags and water bottles of the seniors,his struggle started.The man fondly known as the King of Comebacks spent 4 years in wilderness of domestic cricket when he was again selected for the 1996 tour of England.
His selection raised voices of regionalism and nepotism.Some ill informed journalist even questioned if the man had enough money to buy a decent cricket bat in England,unaware of the fact that this man belonged to one of the wealthiest families of his city.
His selection for the 2nd test in his own words was “lucky”.Had Sanjay Manjrekar not been injured,he would not have had a chance to play that match.A century at the Mecca of cricket and Sourav Gangulyhad arrived on the world scene.He followed that up with another century in the next test.
In next couple of years he cemented his place in the Indian side.In ODIs where he was once chastised to be slow,he became numero uno in the world,even surpassing the great Tendulkar in couple of seasons.The Tendulkar and Ganguly opening partnership struck fear in the hearts of bowlers as they broke records,murdered bowlers,won matches and even demoted the Greenidge and Haynes partner ship to second spot.The most notable of his performances included a match winning 124 againist the archrivals Pakistan in Dhaka,chasing a world record total in fading light.He again proved to be Pakistan’s nemesis when he took 15 wickets and also scored runs in 1997 Sahara cup on way to his world record five consecutive man of the matches.His stroke play through the off side was second only to the cricketing gods,the timing immaculate and the ball pierced the gaps effortlessly.His regal ways of scoring runs and his fanatical fan following in Kolkata,earned him the nick name,”The Prince Of Kolkata”.
A highly successful 1999 world cup,where he smashed an imperious 183 againist the defending champions was followed by another brilliant display in the Australian Tri series in Australia.The fortunes of Indian Team though were dwindling,blanked 3-0 in test series in Australia,they failed to make it to the finals of the ODI series.It was followed by the 1st series loss in tests at home in 11 years,when South Africa crushed India in the test matches.
Sourav Ganguly was appointed the Captain of the team after Sachin Tendulkar resigned.The “DADA” of Indian cricket had come.He lead his team to brilliant victories against the Proteas at home and in Sharjah which included some fine personal performances.This was when the team was rocked by match fixing controversies.He lead a young Indian side to the Champions Trophy of 2000 in Kenya.A century in the semi finals against South Africa helped India reach the finals,where despite a Ganguly century,Newzealand took away the cup.
As the year 2001 arrived the limelight shifted to home series against the all conquering Australia.India was without their main strike bowler,Anil Kumble Ganguly despite oppositions from others chose to back a young Harbhajan singh for the job of the main spinner.His mental tactics left even the Aussies,the masters of the mental game,looking for answers.The test series,acclaimed as one of the best ever finished 2-1 in favour of India.The team India,lead by Ganguly and wonderfully backed by Rahul Dravid VVS Laxman,Tendulkar and Harbhajan had stopped the Australian Juggernaut.
In 2002,his famous incident of taking off his shirt in celebrations at the Lord’s balcony(he actually copied Flitoff’s celebration at Mumbai),to celebrate India’s improbable and famous victory had the purists and traditionalists fuming.India also went on to share the 2002 Champions trophy with Sri Lanka.
In 2003,India reached the World Cup final for the 2nd time in its history and 1st time in 20 years.Unfortunately on that day Australia proved too much for India.India lost just 2 of its matches in that tournament,both to Australia.In 2003 end India went to play Australia and drew the series 1-1 with the most dominant side in the world.It was followed by the 1st full serried between india and Pakistan in more than 15 years,India went on to capture the Test and the ODI series.Sourav Ganguly as a captain had reached his zenith.
By the fall of 2004 questions were raised about Ganguly’s batting,his abilty to play fast bowling,short pitched ball and captaincy.A series loss at home to Australia,the 1st in 69 years,with murmurs that Ganguly chickened out of the Nagpur test after seeing a green pitch made matters worse.A ODI series loss to Pakistan saw the end of the Wright-Ganguly era,with the departure of John Wright.
Greg Chappel,the new coach of Team India and Sourav Ganguly never got along.Their feud become increasingky ugly with a lot of dirty linen bein washed in public.Ganguly was sacked as captain and dropped from the team.The Prince after being at the top for almost a decade had to start a fresh.Not for nothing though is he known as the King of Comebacks,with Indian Team in a terrible shape In SA,Ganguly was brough back after almost a year in the wilderness.He proved his worth again,becoming one of India’s most successful batsman in Tests and ODIs in the next 18 months.
His ODI career came to a premature end after seniors of the team were dropped in favour of young blood,despite Ganguly being one of the most successful batsman in ODIs in last 12 months.His test career though went on.As India prepared to host Australia in 2008 end,after an ill tempered series which India lost to Australia marred by Umpiring howlers and racist abuse allegations,Ganguly announced that it will be his last series.He scored a century in the series and in his last test scored an 80 but as destiny would have it,he scored a duck in his final innings.India went on to win the series 2-0 as the God of offside walked into sunset.
Ganguly is India’s most successful captain,he is credited for infusing Indian Team with the attitude to win,theattitude to not back down and the attitude to return the opposition in the same coin.He backed players like Sehwag,Yuvraj,Dhoni,Harbhajan,Laxman and helped re invent Rahul Dravid as a wicket keeper batsman in ODIs.
Sourav Ganguly continues to play for the IPL franchise Kolkata Knight Riders,where he is the Icon Player.He captained them to 6 th place in the 1st season.After another controversy involving an aussie,this time the KKR coach John Buchanan,Ganguly was removed as captain of KKR.As luck will have it, King of Comebacks is back as captain after KKR had an disastrous season and finished last.
He has been called the Prince of Kolkata,The God of offside,The King Of Comebacks,The DADA of Indian Cricket and even Controversy’s favourite child.
IF Indian cricket is a fort,then Sachin is its undisputed LORD,Dravid is the impregnable WALL,Sehwag,Dhoni,Yuvraj the HEAVY ARTILLERY and Kumble,Laxman,Srinath,Gambhir THE KNIGHTS,But Ganguly is the Commander in Chief.