Daren Ganga proved his leadership credentials very early during his Under-19 days © Getty Images
Daren Ganga, born on January 14, 1979, was a patient West Indian opener who complemented Chris Gayle with his contrasting approach. In 48 Tests for the West Indies, he scored 2,160 runs at an average of 25.71 with three tons and nine fifties. Ganga is more remembered as a leader and his most memorable moment came during the Champions League Twenty20 in 2009 when he led Trinidad and Tobago to the final. An articulate speaker, he is now a commentator. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks back at Ganga’s cricketing journey.
A batsman with more grit and determination than the typical Caribbean flair, Daren Ganga was one interesting player during his days. The orthodox and copybook approach was often contrasting, as the man at the other end, Chris Gayle, fancied whacking every ball out of the ground. However, in the 48 Tests that he played, Ganga maintained his approach and did not fall prey to any temptations. It is surprising that he ended with an average of only 25.71 in Test cricket, but his sharp cricketing brain would mark him as one of the best leaders in recent times in Caribbean cricket.
Born in Barrackpore, Trinidad on January 14, 1979, Ganga grew up in an East Indian community. In an interview with ESPNcricinfo, he recalls watching Indian movies as a child and that was one way he connected to the origins of his ancestors. But, cricket was a passion and was a sport his whole family took to. Moving through the ranks at an early age, he played for South and Central Trinidad three days shy of his 17th birthday and scored 80. A few days later, he was in the Trinidad Under-19 squad.
West Indies also witnessed a leader in Ganga. The fact that he had led West Indies A and a few age group sides had kept him in the reckoning and he had impressed with his tactical skills.
Ganga made his First-Class debut against Guyana in the red Stripe Cup in 1996-97 and scored 17 and two on debut. He continued to play age group cricket through the year and was then a part of the West Indies Under-19 team alongside Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Sylvester Joesph to name a few for the 1998 World Cup in South Africa. Consistent performances in age group cricket and a decent First-Class season that saw him score his maiden ton, as he also made it to the West Indies side for the tough tour to South Africa, before he turned 20.
The maiden sojourn to South Africa was forgettable for Ganga. In three Tests, he could only muster 75 runs and then his three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) also didn’t yield too many runs. He toured New Zealand in late 1999 and then got an opportunity in Australia in 2000-01. On a tough tour for the West Indies, Ganga impressed with his patience and stoic technique. He didn’t have too many big scores, but when he got starts, he did show some qualities of a good opener. The first fifty in Test cricket finally came against Zimbabwe in 2001 at Bulawayo. On the same tour to Zimbabwe, Ganga scored three fifties in the ODI tri-series which also featured the hosts and India.
However, the tough run continued with the sporadic fifties and Ganga had to wait to shine. Then finally, when Australia toured the West Indies in 2003, he hit back to back Test tons to roar back into form. Batting at No 3 at Guyana, he had a sterling 185-run stand with Brian Lara and completed his first Test ton. He followed that up with another big stand with Lara in the Trinidad Test as he moved his way to 117.
Daren Ganga (centre) scored a memorable hundred against Australia in Guyana, forging a wonderful partnership with Brian Lara (left) © Getty Images (File Photo)
Ganga continued to remain in the West Indies’ scheme of things and even toured South Africa for the second time. But, his form was inconsistent and by mid-2004, he was out of the side yet again. After those two tons against Australia, he had managed a highest of 73 against Zimbabwe. In early 2005, he scored 265, his highest First-Class score to return to the West Indies side against South Africa but made a duck and was dropped. He finally returned to the side for a good time in 2006 during the tour to New Zealand.
While the big scores didn’t come his way, Ganga did show good grit on his return. When India toured, he scored 135 in the third Test at St Kitts and 60 not out in the second innings. On a tough track at Jamaica in the next Test, his innings of 40 was a proof of his quality. With those performances, he truly established himself and later on the tour to Pakistan, he scored 82 and 81, which showed that he was well and truly in the scheme of things. As a result, he was also named the West Indies Player’s Associations (WIPA) Test Player of the Year. He returned for the ODIs on the tour but could not establish himself in the side.
West Indies also witnessed a leader in Ganga. The fact that he had led West Indies A and a few age group sides had kept him in the reckoning and he had impressed with his tactical skills. While on the tour to England in 2007, when Sarwan had a nasty injury, Ganga was asked to lead the side for the remainder of the Test matches. West Indies could not win them, but they showed resolve and fight in those games, nearly coming close in a tough run-chase at Manchester. On a personal note, the only highlight for him on the tour was an innings of 49 and 31 not out at Lord’s.
Ganga then moved to South Africa in 2007-08 with a bit of pressure. This time, the inconsistency got the better of him as he could score only 117 runs in six innings and was dropped from the side. That was his last outing in international cricket. It ended where it all started almost a decade ago.
For Trinidad and Tobago, Ganga continued to remain a vital cog in their unit and led them to victory in the regional T20 tournaments. It was with a team of dashers that he entered the inaugural Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) in India in 2009. The less fancied team stunned the world with a breathtaking performance and saw the emergence of Kieron Pollard and Adrian Barath to name a few. His team went through to the final and was easily the most popular unit of the tournament. As a captain, he led from the front and became the face of the team and essayed a crucial knock in the semi-final. The defeat in the finals was difficult to take, but it was a memorable performance.
Ganga continued to lead Trinidad and Tobago and returned for the tournament in 2011. However, their spirit wasn’t enough this time and they couldn’t replicate that famous performance. In November 2011, he quit as captain and has only played a few games since.
Ganga has since donned the role of a commentator and is seen at various cricketing events around the world. An articulate speaker, he had pursued law during his playing days and also runs the Daren Ganga Foundation, which looks after underprivileged kids.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)