As the cricketing royalty from Bengal celebrated his birthday yesterday, it would be quite apt to look back at how the 39 year old Sourav Ganguly has managed to remain in the spotlight right from the time he made news first in 1992. I admit that I am a hardcore Dada fanatic so; my views will be slightly biased in Sourav’s favor. But considering the man’s birthday, all the plaudits that are showered on him in this piece will be timely and they won’t look out of place.
I planned to get this article up yesterday itself, but technology related problems have forced me to postpone it by a day. But, the points mentioned will be quite timeless. Let’s get into the incidents where Dada cornered the entire spotlight on to him either in a positive or negative way.
- In 1992, when the name Sourav Ganguly was first heard in the cricketing circles during the tour of Australia, he generated some negative vibes due to his so called attitude. They alleged that Dada showed his royalty literally in the dressing room and that he refused to carry drinks for his other mates. This bit of negative news literally sidelined Dada for a good 4 yrs during which he went back to the grind of Ranji cricket and honed his skills and tempered his instincts.
- His debut in 1996 must be among the most extravagant entries in world cricket. Century on debut at Lords and following this up with another century in the 2nd Test. Stuff of dreams. His off side play and those gentle caresses through the covers to the boundary would be among the foremost talking points in world cricket in the decade to come.
- From 1997 to the time he took over the captaincy in 2000-01 through the Cricket World Cup (CWC) in England in 1999, Sourav was constantly in the spotlight for scoring 1000s and 1000s of runs in the One day format. He, along with Sachin formed the most successful opening pair in ODI history. He outscored every batsman in the world during these 4 yrs including almighty Sachin. I don’t want to get into the number game but, you can check. He was THE single most prolific ODI batsman during these yrs. Numerous centuries, numerous 6s over the ropes and Sourav was a household name all over the world. One particular inning, his 183 in the CWC is a strong case in point.
- The time in which he took over the captaincy of the Indian team couldn’t have been more tense and turbulent due to the match fixing shocker that Azharuddin and co. had gotten themselves into. Sourav bravely took over the captaincy when guys like Sachin and Dravid hesitated. Sourav became the single most powerful man in Indian cricket following 2001 and he would remain so for a good solid 4 yrs or thereabouts.
- His partnership with John Wright made a lot of positive news. How the 2 complimented each other perfectly, how the 2 were the perfect fire and ice metaphors etc. etc. Sourav lorded the sporting press all over.
- His leadership during the 2001 Australia series, how he made Steve Waugh wait at the toss and how he met fire with fire by promoting youngsters like Harbhajan Singh made him the center of attraction yet again. His poor batting form was another newsmaker during those years.
- Then came the picture perfect moment in Sourav’s career. Flinging his Indian jersey in the Lords balcony, revealing his bare hairy torso, spewing aggression in no uncertain terms. That was THE moment for any Dada fanatic. His aggressive batting in that final where he smashed the English quicks over the ropes with ease was a major foundation for the record chase that day of 320 odd. 2 of his protégés Yuvraj and Kaif made their captain proud that evening.
- He put 2 youngsters Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif into the bullring a year or so into his captaincy stint. Yuvraj made some weighty contributions in the Champions Trophy in Kenya, a tournament where Dada would strike a rich vein of form with multiple 100s at the top of the order. India would lose the finals but Sourav was Man of the Tournament. SPOTLIGHT TIME yet again
- The way he forwarded the careers of Sehwag and Zaheer Khan, 2 immensely talented young blokes got him a lot of positive press. Harbhajan, Yuvraj, Kaif and later Dhoni too would join the list of Sourav protégés.
- His extramarital affair with actress Nagma was gobbled up the Page 3 paparazzi and this couple was constantly chased by the press hounds.
- The tour of Australia in 2003-04 was a rocker for Sourav and the entire team. Sourav started it off in typical spunk with a 144 at the bouncy GABBA track. The knock sent all the right signals to both the teams and the Aussie press finally respected the man who had for so many years been a spoilt and arrogant brat in their eyes. The Indians made use of the weak Aussie attack to square the series. Sourav’s captaincy was reflected in his pride at regaining the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
- The 2003 CWC saw the Indian team making it to the finals under Sourav’s captaincy. The captain scored 3 100s, though against the minnows and he was 2nd in the run getters list behind the GOD of Indian cricket. The terrible performance in the finals after Sourav won the toss and elected to field first was put through a lot of post mortem following that humbling loss against Ponting’s men.
- Sourav lead the Indian team on its first tour across the border in ages and India won that series 2-1 thanks to some great cricket by Sehwag and Dravid. Sourav returned to the side only for the 3rd Test at Rawalpindi after sitting out the first 2 Tests. The score-line was 1-1 and he saw through the victory in the final Test to spark great celebrations back home. Sourav was a national hero yet again. His signals to declare the Indian inning sitting in the dressing room as a mere observer, when Sachin was batting on 194 in the first Test at Multan, sent the message across pretty strongly that Sourav was the man in control of the whipping stick.
- Then came the downfall and this time a lot of negative spotlight and constant criticisms by every arm chair critic. His fallouts with Greg Chappell, the email leaks in the media, his own poor batting form, in-fighting in the team etc. etc. meant that Sourav’s extended honeymoon period as the leader of the Indian side had finally come to an end.
- The ads showing Sourav appealing to the fans to not forget him was another campaign that made a lot of mixed noise. Sourav didn’t need this sympathy but, he bowed down to the desire to play again and also to the sponsors’ demands.
- Sourav got back to domestic cricket to get back into the reckoning for the Indian side and he made a good impression and news of how crowds thronged to see him play made the rounds in the press very regularly.
- He expectedly made a comeback into the Indian side. The initial impressions were terrific to say the least. He won the man of the series award in his comeback ODI series. He was terrific in the England series as well, both Tests and ODIs. He somehow couldn’t convert all his numerous starts to 100s.
- He was also in the team for the CWC in 2007. That was a disaster for the entire team and Sourav’s ODI career would see its final chapter. Unfortunate end to the career of one of ODI cricket’s true legends. He wasn’t able to get a single 100 in his last 4 yrs of ODI cricket. That was a sore talking point among the scores of Dada fanatics.
- Then Dada reached the high point of his Test career towards the fag end of his run in 2007 in the home series against Pakistan. His first double century (239) and scoring 92 in the 2nd innings as well. Such a rich haul of runs in a single Test match. Dada was man of the series and he had hit a purple patch. He was first choice again. The Dada army had never been happier and the media dug into every byte that he had to offer.
- His last Test series against the Aussies was a good success. He had a century and a 90 odd in that series but unfortunately the last inning was a duck. India won that series and Dada was given a great farewell with a victory against one of his most fierce adversaries. He was proudly carried on the shoulders of his teammates and it was quite emotional for even the great Sachin Tendulkar.
- After his retirement, the IPL was there to make all the noise for Dada. Most of that was negative. He was the icon player in the first 3 seasons. He was captain for the 1st and 3rd seasons. In the 2nd season Brendon McCullum was made the captain. There was a huge hue and cry as to how a Kolkotan team can play without Dada as its captain. Lots and lots of media space were dedicated to the supposed tiffs between SRK, Dada and the coaching team.
- In the 4th season, he was not picked in the auction by any of the teams. It was a huge embarrassment that Dada didn’t need at this stage of his retirement. There were big protests in Eden Gardens, SRK made some salvaging comments about Dada’s supposed goodwill for the team blah blah, social networks were buzzing with the Dada word all over again and fans conducted protest marches in many cities. Finally Dada was picked up by the Pune warriors and he made a few appearances for them including his winning debut for the team.
- The latest spotlight moment has been that of a fan falling at the feet of Dada just after he walked in to the middle for his debut in IPL season 4 for Pune. That was marvelous and that particular image was there on many FB walls, it had the maximum likes in cricinfo by a distance and all the news dailies flashed that image proudly on their front pages.
OH, what a sporting career that is full of moments that any ordinary cricketer would die to have. He has been the media’s chosen one and he carries it off with so much ease, pride and nonchalance. Here’s wishing many more years to the Prince of Kolkata and the Ruler of many hearts, SOURAV GANGULY.
39 yrs and still going strong. Hosting a TV show, making news in the ICC circles and a possible big shot post in BCCI very soon. The arc lights are already flickering for some manic focus on Dada in the coming days.