The Test at Lord’s which began on the 20th of June in the year of 1996 between England and India will always be immortalised in this country’s collective memory – the match which saw the Test debuts of Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. One of the England bowlers from the match, Alan Mullally, has come up with an interesting anecdote of sledging in the match, which was the first glimpse of the character of Ganguly.
Mullally, who is now retired in England, and serving a driving ban for drinking and driving, related to Anandabajar Patrika how he still remembers the sight of Ganguly giving him an angry look from under the rim of his helmet, and how he managed to shut up even the experienced Alec Stewart.
When Ganguly had come in to bat on the morning of the second day, India were in trouble. Chasing England’s score of 344, they had lost their first wicket with 25 runs on board. The skies were overcast, and it looked like India's future was similarly gloomy. England captain Michael Atherton instructed his fielders to close around the debutant.
Sourav was known as someone who had been discarded from the national team after one chance in 1992, and he was thought to be someone who could be easily sent packing, as Mullally said. As the left-hander prepared to bowl to Sourav, Dominic Cork was laughing at long off, smacking his lips at the prospect of another easy Indian wicket before lunch.
Senior player Alec Stewart blared, so that both batsman and bowler could hear, “Let’s give this boy a greeting! So what if it hits his face! I know you can do it, Alan.”
It was accepted in those days that a junior cricketer would be greeted by a volley of words by seniors from the opposing side, and most players would keep their head down and pretend not to hear. But Sourav was a breed of cricketer the likes of whom Stewart had not seen much of before, he was a predecessor to the fire-for-fire attitude which is more prevalent in current times.
And so Sourav looked up from marking his stance, and told Stewart, “Hello Mr. Stewart. You are a very respected cricketer. Now please keep quiet and let me make my debut."
Sourav and Lara two most flamboyant cricketers: Mullally
Mullally recounts how Stewart was struck silent at this retort, and the Ganguly stare that would be seen many times over the coming years raised some doubts in the bowlers’ mind as well.
Ganguly would go on to score 131, and the other debutant Dravid chipped in with 95, as India put on a lead for the first innings. Ganguly also claimed 3 wickets in the match.
Mullally further said, “My name is connected to Sourav’s in a strange way. The scoreboard had said in that match – SC Ganguly bowled Alan Mullally 131. That was a milestone in my career as well. That match had seen the rise of Sourav and Dravid. They were the David Gower and Geoffrey Boycott of India. One specialised in winning ODIs, the other Tests.”
“Sourav’s flamboyance had impressed me in that match itself. Brian Lara is the only cricketer who could be as flamboyant. Sourav was not as gifted as Wasim Akram or Sachin Tendulkar, he had to work a lot harder.”
Those few days of the 2nd Test in the 1996 series will always remain special for Indian cricket fans, but as can be seen from Mullally’s fond recollections, their warm aura spreads to the opposing camp as well.