Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sourav Ganguly – Master of the Art of Riposte

As England toppled India to become the numero uno in test match cricket, one man saw all the mayhem unfold in front of his own eyes albeit from the other side of the boundary line this time. He was the man who was once responsible for making this team what it is today—A team full of match winners, a team worthy of beating the best in their own backyard. As a captain, he was pivotal in setting the foundation for India’s resurgence as a top cricket team and now as a commentator, the passion in his presentation is visible and his technical view points on game situations leaves you wanting for more. He must have felt immense pain while watching India lose to England but this time, there was little that he could do. Yes, I am talking about the ‘’Prince of Kolkata’’– Sourav Ganguly. Ever since his retirement, India has well and truly struggled to find a player to fill in that no 6 spot. His absence was felt in this tour to say the least. So, today let us try and relive those golden memories of the past via this tribute to my role-model; Sourav Ganguly.
22nd June 1996, India was playing at Mecca of world cricket—The Lord’s against the English and it was the third day of the second test match in the test series. The scenic beauty of the Lord’s with the cool London breeze blowing around was there to be admired but what was more pleasant to the eyes was the presence of a slim, young and handsome player in the middle who was making his debut in international test cricket. He was driving the English bowlers all around the park with his classy off drives and soon got his name etched in the history books by scoring a magnificent hundred on debut. This man who with his extraordinary cricketing talent took the entire cricketing fraternity by storm was none other than our very own Sourav Chandidas Ganguly aka Dada.
Some felt he couldn’t play the bouncers, others swore that he was GOD on off-side, some laughed at his lack of athleticism, others took pride in the way he led his band of men to glory. Apart from Sachin Tendulkar, no other Indian batsman till date has inspired such amazing devotion. Sourav’s ability to polarize opinions led to the making of one of the most entertaining dramas in international cricket–An era which well and truly belonged to the man who took Indian cricket to new heights. It goes without saying that he was India’s most successful test captain–A captain who forged a winning side from a bunch of players who always had the talent but no one to channelize it. Sourav not only instilled that missing killer instinct in them but also taught them the ‘ART OF WINNING’–An art which was missing in Indian cricket for long. Inspite of being a batsman who made stroke making look utterly easy, his career came to a standstill in the early 1990s after it was revived courtesy a scintillating hundred against England at Lord’s. It was a path-breaking moment in his career as that innings opened the doors of team India for Sourav Ganguly. And then came the turning point in his career–a moment which was going to change Indian cricket and Sourav’s life forever. In the year 2000, Mohammad Azharuddin, the former Indian captain and one of the world’s finest batsman was banned for life from the sports owing to match fixing allegations.This incident took the entire cricketing fraternity by storm and suddenly team India found itself in a jeopardy–With no Azhar around, who will lead the team?
The answer was -Sourav Ganguly. In 2000, when he took over as the skipper, he inherited Indian cricket in the midst of confusion and crisis that was triggered by the match fixing controversy. There was no clarity of thought, no game plan, no strategies. In a nutshell India was going nowhere. It was time to bring about a change but it was certainly going to be a herculean task from every stretch of imagination. Come 2001, and Sourav played the role of a shrewd tactician to perfection and stopped the winning juggernaut of the Aussies in the Eden test at Kolkata which has got imprinted in the minds of millions and millions of die hard cricket fans. It was indeed a historic victory and gifted back team India it’s long lost self-belief. Personally for Sourav, it was a huge moment in his cricketing career. Rest as they say is history–Team India under Ganguly’s leadership soared to new heights –The team started winning away matches as well. The victories against Australia and Pakistan in their own backyard stand apart. In 2002, the bare-chested Ganguly stunt on the Lord’s balcony was to become the defining moment of his captaincy. There was no place for decorum and norms. It did not matter it was the Lord’s –-the holiest of cricketing hollies. It was India’s first one-day tournament victory after having lost nine in a row, six of them under Ganguly. India also made it to the finals of 2003 cricket world cup under Ganguly’s captaincy but unfortunately faltered in the final frontier. After having spent close to 5 years at the helm, it seemed as if he had cemented his place in the hearts of his hardcore fans and in the team as a skipper–But the phase after 2005 turned out to be a nightmare for the southpaw. He was not only axed as the skipper but was also shown the doors from the team. But those who say that Sourav is the “KING OF COME-BACKS” don’t say it without any reason. He justified this tag as he capped a fairytale comeback with the South Africa series and went on to put on some superlative displays in England and then in the home series against Pakistan. But the end seemed to be imminent. And finally after the Kanpur test against Australia in 2008, Sourav called it quits.This brought the end to an amazing career which spanned for more than a decade and it won’t be an exaggeration if one claims that it was a fitting end to a legendary player’s career. Sourav Ganguly always had the supreme gift of timing and his exit from the game was truly an endorsement of his magical sense of timing.
There is no denial to the fact that throughout his career, he has toyed with his fate, tempting it to turn its back on him so that once again he could surprise us with a stunning come-back. Something in him always rebelled against the mundane and orthodox styles of cricket. He has enjoyed life at the zenith of success and has smelled the barren soil as well. He fought fire with fire and taught the same to his team. He well and truly is one of the leading architects of this world champion team India.To end with, Ganguly is a born fighter–a man who fought against all odds, who stood by his team when it needed him the most and a great batsman who served Indian cricket with distinction and left when Indian cricket was in a much better state than he found it.
SOURAV GANGULY – The man who taught us to look in the eye of the enemy and not blink!
The man who injected steel, the man who galvanised the team.
We miss you DADA!!!
Avi for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Avi on Twitter @KnightsDen

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