May be a good captain,but…
In 2011, IPL players’ auction, when Ganguly’s name was not considered even by his own Kolkota Knight Riders, his fans grew furious. The die hard “Dada fanatics” believed it to be an injustice meant to insult their hero. Finally, it was Pune who rendered a helping hand to this one of the legends of the game by housing him under its roof. From a Knight Rider, he soon became a Warrior.
While he was playing for India though, as a warrior it seemed, he was bestowed with all the best weapons possible. More to that he had been a commander for so long under whose regime his team had won many battles. His weapons were used sweetly as well as roughly. His weapon could be referred to have been sweetly used whenever he timed those gorgeous drives on the off side which infact drove Rahul Dravid to say “At off side first there is God and then there is Sourav Ganguly”.
On the other hand, his weapons could be referred to have been roughly used whenever he went down the wicket, as there was only one place where the ball could travel and that would be over the commentator’s box, after having suffered the worst beating ever. Infact, he was the only guy in the entire bunch of cricketers whom one could see never getting foxed whenever he got down the wickets for hoisting the spinners. The sixes used to flew from the bat of this “Prince of Kolkata”, more often than not. Even Sachin Tendulkar had to play a second fiddle when Ganguly was on a rampage, particularly in ODIs. The spinners, especially, feared bowling to him many a times.
Sourav Ganguly, who once earned laurels specially for the way he mastered the off side game and the way he treated the spinners with despise, now looks predominantly a “have not”. The incisive weapons of his which he was holding for quite long have now gone blunt. It is the same Ganguly, the presence of whom anywhere in the cricket field, leaves the crowd of Kolkata mad due to his fireworks, is now seen tottering with the bat.
The last night’s game of Pune with Mumbai Indians exposed the hole in the game of Ganguly. A mere 121 runs, which was the target to beat for Pune was never closer to be achieved, at any point of time. As and when Ganguly took strike, the targets seemed to go that much out of the reach for Pune. The distance between the balls and the runs kept on growing and eventually when twelve runs were needed of the last over, Pune had to lose the game by one run. Now who is to blame for this loss?
The commentators heaped praises on the way the MI boys bowled but was that the reason Pune did not really make it to the finishing line is what we have to see. Of all the Mumbai bowlers, only Malinga posed a sole threat for Pune warriors on their chase. True that Harbhajan Singh and Ojhas provided crucial break throughs initially but even though this target was something which could have been achieved by one decent solid partnership. When Clarke joined hands with Sourav Ganguly, the former seemed to the aggressor but eventually was unlucky to have been given out leg before. But then, when Pune still had a batsman like Sourav Ganguly and was joined by a talented batsman like Mithun Manhas the target should have not have been something very extraordinary to achieve.
When you take Malinga out of the equation, or even if you had managed to score atleast run a ball of him without losing a wicket, your job would have been half done. You could have capitalized on the other bowlers and even if you had lost a wicket or two in the process, the target was not so big to be out of reach of the chasing team. But that did not happen.
The captain of Pune batted so calmly and patiently as though he was playing in a test match. The Bengali batsman, who used to step down the wicket against spinners and lofting them for sixes, as I said before, never took even a step out of his crease during the entire match. He was just seen respecting the spinners with defensive approach and he kept on negotiating them with a single in between, leaving the poor Manhas to do the bulk of scoring. Manhas was the only one who, among the two, had the intention of chasing down the target. Ganguly did not seem to have that intensity at all. He barely put a pedal on the accelerator and that seemed to be a surprise. He was reluctant to take advantage of the spinners right from the first ball he faced. If only he had tried taking risk against them, the target would have been a cake walk for the warriors.
Ganguly’s strike rate was the worst in the match with only one boundary scored out of more than 25 balls faced by him. Eventually, he also got dismissed bowled by Lasith Malinga’s ball and he went back to the pavilion after having dug a huge hole for his own team from which getting out was virtually impossible.
Though he was the reason for Pune’s debacle in the match, I have to empathise with him in a way. The fans of Ganguly, especially from Kolkata, would love to see their hero all the time in cricket field, entertaining them. But, the sad part is he has lost it ever since he stopped playing at the international level. He is not the same Ganguly whom we have seen dominating the bowlers. He really did not look a shadow of his own self throught out this IPL thus far. I am not sure if we are going to see his bat do the talking again. He had the intention really to win it for his team but he has lost his prowess and skills with the bat and it was there he fell short.
It looked as if we are seeing a Ganguly who once debuted in 1992 in the ODI series in Australia. There he could not score anything and immediately got dropped as he found to be very submissive in his approach. The same Ganguly, though now a legend and a senior in his own right, looked really like a nervy debutant in the match. No offense meant as now I could understand as to why Knight Riders did not risk winning him in the auction. The depleting game of Ganguly was not going to add any value addition to Kolkata and they chose not to have him in their team as a result. The same fans who were enraged at his exclusion from the KKR would atleast learn the truth that no one can overcome time.
When time goes by, no matter, how big a star you are in any sports, just like Ganguly, you are going to be found wanting. Ganguly’s batting is a lesson for any senior cricketers who would like to continue with the game until their mind stops them to do it. You might have the desire in mind to continue playing even as you approach your 40s but if your body does not synchronize with your mind, you are not going to achieve anything.
We have seen a lot of cricketers just continued playing just to set a record and all we saw was them standing in between their team and victories. Only because, Pakistan wanted to have Javed Miandad setting a world record for playing more number of world cups than anyone they had him playing in 1996 world cup, Only because, India wanted to have Kapil Dev overtaking Richard Hadlee’s quota of 431 wickets in tests, they kept him playing and we have seen a lot of such things. In the end, what happened? Okay, they achieved their own records but they did it at their respective team’s cause and they themselves ended up getting humiliated.
So, this is a lesson to all the cricketers who are seniors. No one can protect his own record as it is not in his hands. One day or the other records are going to be broken. Thus, it is of no use just to be in your team as a liability just because you have passion for scoring runs or taking wickets even though your body does not cooperate with you. The more you stay on the team to earn more respect the more you will be disrespected. The same fans who once adored you will start to hurl stones at you, though not literally.
Therefore, it is always better when you think of retirement when you, as a player, feel you have had enough. You should thank your time and God for all what he has given to you and call it a day sooner than the latter just like Sunil Gavaskar and Viv Richards had done. I don’t see Ganguly getting auctioned to play for any of the coming IPLs and perhaps this would be his last. Both as a batsman and as a captain he has achieved enough and so, better late than never, it is better if he says quits from all forms of the game. Ganguly has earned enough knowledge on the game for having played this number of years and so it is time for him to apply his wisdom for the growth of the game rather than playing the game.