Sourav Ganguly was the leader India needed in the early 2000s. A team which had been hit with match-fixing, a nation with head held low, and amidst all, the game which is pious to many stood ravaged. Stepping in as a man possessed, and taking issues head-on, Sourav Ganguly not only revamped the entire team but instilled a sense of pride in the way we watched cricket.
He transformed a bunch of highly talented individuals from meek personalities to combative egos who were no longer afraid to take on the world. The Indian cricket team was now known as Team India, and the journey towards glory thus began.
We take a look at the top 5 captaincy decisions taken by Sourav Ganguly over his career.
1. Winning the toss and electing to bat under cloudy conditions at Headingley
The third Test during the 2002 tour to England was held at Leeds, Headingley which is known everywhere for its grey clouds and green tracks, conditions which are alien to the Indian team.
Sourav Ganguly won the toss and to everyone's surprise, elected to bat in conditions which were tailor-made for seam bowlers. The reason behind this decision was that India had two spinners in their ranks in the form of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, and the skipper wanted them to exploit conditions on the fourth and fifth days.
This proved to be a masterstroke as India amassed 628 runs in the first innings. England could never recover from this pressure and in what added sheen to the performance was that Anil Kumble picked up four wickets in the final innings. India went on to win the match by an innings and 46 runs.
The duo of Harbhajan and Kumble also picked up three wickets in the first innings, and Dada's prophetic decision stood vindicated.
2. Sourav Ganguly asked Virender Sehwag to open
The dashing Delhi batsman Virender Sehwag made his debut for India as a middle-order batsman and scored a sterling 105 against South Africa. However, Sourav Ganguly saw him as a match-winner right from the outset and prompted him to open for India in Test Matches.
Many believed that Sehwag's technique was not cut out for Test Matches, but defying all odds the skipper gave him the confidence and the belief that he can be successful as an opener in the longest format too. The rest, as they say, is history as Sehwag ended his career as one of the best openers to have played the game.
Another masterstroke by the captain, indeed!
3. Giving Sachin Tendulkar the ball during the Eden Gardens Test Match
The historic game at Eden Gardens in 2001 is perhaps the most poignant moment in the history of Indian cricket. While much has been said and documented about the performance of VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh and Rahul Dravid, one incident that slips under the radar is the moment when Sourav Ganguly tossed the ball to Sachin Tendulkar late during the final day.
At 161/3, Australia looked poised to save the match. Harbhajan kept toiling at the other end, and just after tea got the wickets of Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh just after tea. Sourav Ganguly then tossed the ball to Sachin as Venkatpathy Raju was not proving to be effective.
Sachin Tendulkar picked up the critical wicket of Adam Gilchrist and then the all-important scalp of Matthew Hayden. Both attempted to sweep the ball and were trapped right in front of the stumps. He then accounted for Shane Warne too, and the rest of the wickets were just a matter of formality for the other bowlers.
4. Giving Rahul Dravid the gloves for One Day matches
One of the biggest moves made by Sourav Ganguly was to give Rahul Dravid the responsibility to keep wickets for the One Dayers.
This decision was made to balance the team, and although Dravid was never comfortable doing the job, he kept at it all for the team's sake. This allowed India to play an extra batsman in the limited-overs match, a cushion which benefitted the team in the longer run.
"I understand its hard on him, but we have to realise that the team comes first. It's the same reason why I stepped down from opening the batting and am now batting at number three or four for the country," Sourav Ganguly said when asked about the role of Dravid.
5. Grooming the next-gen of Indian cricketers
Sourav Ganguly is also responsible for grooming the next nucleus of Indian cricket. Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Mohammad Kaif, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh were some of the young turks who were roped in and given a long rope to perform and be part of the team for a longer run.
And these guys became out and out match-winners for India in the coming years. And they were also part of the triumphant 2011 World Cup-winning squad.
Sourav Ganguly was also behind the inclusion of Irfan Pathan in the team, and under the former India captain, Pathan was at his best. Even MS Dhoni was selected for India at Sourav Ganguly's behest.
A captain who gave the team a core of match-winners, and a captain who was all for winning, Sourav Ganguly was a leader by all means!Published 23 Mar 2020, 16:18 IST