Indian cricket has had its generous dose of iconic moments and achievements. Former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly has played his part in a few of them, and it wasn't just the cult-classic, emotionally charged shirt wave on the Lord's balcony in 2002 after winning the Natwest final against England.
It wasn't the one-handed stunner to dismiss Saurabh Tiwary in IPL 2010 either. It wasn't those succulent drives on the off-side that would see the cherry racing away to the fence. It wasn't those 11363 ODI runs with 22 hundreds. It wasn't those 7212 runs in 113 Tests. Sourav Ganguly was more. Sourav Ganguly was a legend in his own right.
Pardon the writer if this comes across as a puff piece, even if it isn't. If anything, it is just an attempt on his 49th birthday articulating what Ganguly means to Indian cricket.
Sourav Ganguly was a fearless skipper to the hilt
The 90's and the early 2000s were an era where conservative and smart approaches meant something entirely different. What the Bengal man did was inject some daredevil attitude into it, and it wasn't just with his bat.
Much of that fearlessness stems from the fact that he trusted his players to do the job. Would India have witnessed VVS Laxman - Rahul Dravid's brilliance at Eden Gardens in 2001 if it wasn't for his move to promote Laxman at No.3? It was an MS Dhoni-like move when he sent the Hyderabad batsman ahead of a struggling and ill Dravid.
A visionary: Blooding young talent
Dinesh Karthik vividly remembers the stern but rather amusing verbal whack he received when he played under Sourav Ganguly's captaincy. Speaking to Gaurav Kapur on his show, 'Breakfast with Champions' demonstrates how he ran straight into Ganguly during the 2004 Champions Trophy game against Pakistan.
A 19-year-old Karthik ran into a huddle carrying 12 bottles of water while the team was discussing a plan of action to turn the tide of the match. And Karthik, unable to stop, just knocked Ganguly off balance.
"Hey," the angry skipper retorted. "Aisa log ko kidhar kidhar se laathe hai re?"
It may have been funny when he said it, but there is no doubt that he was blooding the young guns for the future, with his fab-four superstars powers waning.
His push gave India the belief they could win overseas
The 2007 Cricket World Cup was a disaster. However, if India had stuck to the 2003 success template, perhaps their journey would have been a lot more memorable.
The 2003 World Cup saw Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif and Harbhajan Singh in their prime and young legs under them. Sourav Ganguly's faith they could deliver paid off as they played their part to perfection as India made the final before losing to Australia.
There was grit in Ganguly's leadership. His ability to lead from the front saw him have the second-best overseas win record (11 wins from 28 Test matches) for an Indian captain. It is proof of his caliber and captaincy skills.