4 Indian stalwarts who owe their careers to Sourav Ganguly
If there was one unprecedented thing that Sourav Ganguly gave to Indian cricket and it's viewers - its tens of thousands of viewers who would drop a six-course gourmet meal with shots of tequila and sarsaparilla to watch their favourite stars in action.
It was a sense of self-belief and paramount confidence. Notwithstanding his never-say-die mentality and his hell-bent attitude of giving it back to the opposition under provocation, Ganguly's biggest contribution to world cricket was in developing an Indian team which believed that it could win matches in any conditions, against all oppositions, and most importantly, match fire with fire.
Wherever he comported himself, there was an aura of self-belief around him. His captaincy formula was no different either. Whenever the spatter off the bat of a rookie cricketer, resulting from a cover-drive as scrumptious as his famous Bengali delicacies reached his ears, Ganguly fast-tracked him into the national side.
He moved away from the traditional features of Indian selection called favouritism and regionalism and ensured that every youngster received a fair number of opportunities to prove his worth.
And in doing that, he backed his instincts over the world. The following virtuosos of Indian cricket, some you might know and some you might not, have only been direct beneficiaries of Ganguly's unflinching support and unwavering belief:
#4 Harbhajan Singh
Early 2001. Ganguly's first big assignment after succeeding Tendulkar as captain. Australia were the undisputed, yet uncrowned champions of world cricket back then, and was drawing comparisons to the West Indies team of the '80s.
McGrath, Gillespie, Warne, and Kasprowicz presented a fiery bowling line-up that could run through batting orders and reduce them into ashes, whereas Hayden, Ponting, Waugh, and Langer could take the match away from you in a single session.
Ganguly geared up for what was going to be a gruelling series in characteristic panache, at the selection committee's meeting in Mumbai:
" I am not leaving this room until I see Harbhajan’s name on that list."
To put things in perspective, Harbhajan Singh was a schoolboy-turned cricketer back then, who had taken giant leaps in personal life, changing from the tyro asking for autographs to a shy Punjabi signing his own name.
He had his bowling action suspected twice in a 3-year old career, and it seemed like the wane of another promising young talent, with the selectors burying his name along with some 3 others banned for life owing to unfortunate circumstances.
But not when Dada was at the helm of the affairs.
Result? Bhajji finishes the series with 32 wickets (second-placed McGrath had 17), a hat-trick, and a five-for, as India completed a series victory, that sent an entire country into euphoria, and brought back life into a game marred by the scandals of match-fixing.