Sourav Ganguly’s is a strange case.
Ganguly is arguably the greatest captain India has ever had; a list which includes greats like Mohammed Azharuddin, MAK Pataudi and even MS Dhoni. A major factor for India’s successes in the past few years is down to Ganguly’s boisterous captaincy. It was during his reign when players like Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman and Zaheer Khan were nurtured. He convinced Indians across the planet that they could beat the mighty Aussies and did so on multiple occasions and took India to an unprecedented world cup final in the daunting conditions of South Africa.
Apart from his captaincy, Ganguly’s batting is usually considered the stuff of legends. He has amassed 11,000 plus runs in the one-day format, a feat surpassed by only five players in the history of the game, has hit the fourth highest number of centuries, and is one of only three players to have hit 10,000 runs and picked 100 wickets. While his test record isn’t as remarkable, it still is highly commendable and the countless knocks he has played to India’s rescue, are unforgettable.
It was in his first test against England, where even Rahul Dravid made his debut, when Ganguly showcased his prowess to the cricketing world. With effortless shots crashing through the offside, he was already billed as one for the future and why not? Ganguly hit his second hundred in the very next match and proved that he was there to say.
Yet, the Ganguly detractors are far too many. It is unfortunate how people inflate the negative aspects of his game to such an extent, they overshadow his achievements and his contribution to Indian cricket. Most criticism came with regards to his fielding and his ability, or rather his inability, to play the short ball. As has been a problem for Indian batsmen for generations, the short ball was Ganguly’s kryptonite and he didn’t seem to want to improve on that. His fielding was always lethargic and lazy and his running between the wickets nothing less.
However, to completely ignore his achievements is a pretty sad way to treat Sourav Ganguly. Sure, he will never be remembered for his batting, especially when his career spanned during the existence of a certain Sachin Tendulkar and another Rahul Dravid, but Ganguly’s ability to rise to the occasion and conjure up a non-existent spirit in the Indian side to overcome even the toughest of opponents was always uplifting to watch.
The IPL has been a harbinger of second chances for numerous cricketers. We’ve seen Shane Warne return and defy age to lead the Rajasthan Royals to their first IPL victory. We’ve seen Sunil Joshi roll his arm over, well beyond the age of 40. We’ve seen Sanath Jayasuriya turn back the clock and lift bowlers for sixes left, right and centre and so many more. It was only a matter of time before Ganguly joined the party.
Ever since his fall from grace (read: Chappel) and humiliating axe from the Indian side, Ganguly has been like a man out to prove something. It’s very clear to see that he doesn’t want us to forget him. He’s been battling it out for his state Bengal and has done a fairly decent job. However, the IPL was never his calling. His stint with Kolkata Knight Riders failed miserably. Never did KKR go beyond the group stages under him nor did Ganguly perform very well. Ganguly faithfuls would blame the outside activities of the Shah Rukh Khan owned team, but that wouldn’t explain his poor form.
Pune Warriors India decided to pick him last year, but it’s this year where the Bengal Tiger has truly woken up. No, his ability with the bat has looked poor and his legs seem to be giving away along with his hair. However, the tenacity he carries on the field and the aggressive approach he attacks his opponents with has transformed Pune Warriors India from a pushover to serious title contenders. Murmurs of his place being justified on the basis of his captaincy have been buzzing around, however his performance against Delhi Daredevils would have shut a few up.
What was heartening to see was his celebration after taking Kevin Pietersen’s wicket on his first ball. Sanjay Manjrekar, in the farce that is the ‘post match analysis’, very rightly and uncharacteristically said that Ganguly looked like someone who was enjoying his game and was on top of the world to have an opportunity to play again. Ganguly seemed excited, just like the 21-year old who made his debut 16 years ago. Ganguly will never be remembered for his achievements. That is his curse. But he will never be forgotten either.