When it comes to the Indian cricket, the name Sourav Ganguly defines aggression, passion, and intensity. Ganguly holds several records in the world of cricket. His batting style, his on-field persona, and his bowling tactics have inspired players from across the world. However, the reason the world will forever admire and remember him is that he was the captain who changed the face of Indian cricket forever.
Ganguly took over as the captain of India in the year 2000. This was the time when the world had a bitter outlook on India post a series of match-fixing scandals. Ganguly was the vice-captain and took over as the captain, once Sachin stepped down from his captaincy. Thus the golden era of the Indian Cricket begun.
He started off his tenure with a kickstart. India won the five-match ODI Series against South Africa under his captaincy. Soon after, Ganguly also lead his team to the finals of the ICC Knockout Trophy but lost to New Zeland and finished runners-up. He scored 348 runs in the tournament and was the highest run-getter in the tournament. This shows that he guided his team by example.
Under his leadership, team India achieved various unique feats and scaled new heights in cricket. Be it in in Test matches or in ODI's, India became a force to reckon with. For example, India was number 8 in the Test rankings when his tenure started as a captain and climbed to number 2 position when he left his captaincy.
Under Ganguly, one of the greatest achievements that team India achieved was to conquer the undefeated streak of Australia. Australia won 16 consecutive Tests on the trot and was scheduled to face India next in a three-match series. India under Sourav Ganguly's captaincy won the Test series 2-1 and thus showed to the world that even Australia is conquerable.
Another talent that Ganguly had, was to give many young budding players an opportunity to perform. Under his captaincy, several players made their debut. The list includes L. Balaji, Gautam Gambhir, MS Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Dinesh Karthik and several others. These players have gone on to become champions of the game. Had it not been for Sourav Ganguly, these players might not have become the legends that they are today.
Ganguly was also known for backing his players when they needed him the most. For example, Virender Sehwag used to bat as a middle-order batsman for India. It was Ganguly, who promoted him and gave him the opportunity to open the innings for the team. Sehwag was hesitant, but upon Ganguly's insistence, he played as an opener. As we all know, the rest is history as Sehwag became one of the greatest opening batsmen ever in the game of cricket. This was all possible because of Sourav Ganguly and the trust he reposed upon his players.
One of the most controversial yet lovable memory during his captaincy was the final match of the NatWest series at Lords, in the year 2002 when India faced England. Ganguly pulled off his shirt after the match and became an icon of the Indian cricketing fraternity. This was his gesture to get back at Andrew Flintoff, who did a similar act in Mumbai a couple of months back. Thus, he made a point to the world that Indians won't tolerate any such misconduct and would retaliate back equally.
One more example, when he supported and backed his players was during the 2003-04 Australian tour for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. The selectors of the Indian cricket team were keen on selecting Murali Kartik over Anil Kumble. They were of the opinion that Australia can't play left-arm spin well and thus Kartik should be in the squad. Ganguly resisted and didn't left the room till the selectors picked Kumble for the tour. They told Ganguly that he will be the first person to be axed from the team if they do not play well and if Kumble doesn't perform. Kumble picked the maximum number of wickets in the series and had an outstanding calendar year. This again proves why Ganguly was an outstanding captain.
Thus, in light of the above factors, one can easily understand that Sourav Ganguly was the man who played a pivotal role in building team India. He was an ideal captain whom the world admires. Ganguly brought intensity and integrity in the team and thus he was loved by all the players who played under him. There is no doubt that he is the greatest captain, team India ever had. He might not have the stats or any world cup to flaunt, but he has the love of the entire nation and that's what matters.