Sourav Ganguly was a fine captain during his time © Getty Images & IANS
Sourav Ganguly, born on July 8, 1972, is perhaps the most controversial international cricketer India has ever produced. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at a list of 10 things the cricket fans ought to know about him.
You may be a hardcore Sourav Ganguly fan. You may have burnt effigies of Greg Chappell about eight years back (how time flies!). You may detest him to the core. You may have celebrated his axing. But one thing is for sure: you cannot be neutral towards the man. Here, then, is a list of things about the man that may interest you.
1. Left Front
Ganguly was born a right-hander. He writes, eats, and as we know, bowls with his right-hand. He was a right-handed batsman, too, in his early days. His brother Snehashish was, however, a left-hander, and Sourav wanted to use his gear. Exactly why he did this is unknown, since the Gangulys are one of the richest families of Calcutta, but the choice made him the leading run-scorer among all left-handed Indian Test batsmen.
2. Crossing Park Street
Ganguly was a student of St Xavier’s College, Calcutta — a prestigious institute located on Park Street, one of the busiest and broadest roads of the old capital of The Raj. Growing up in the same city (I was in school when he was in college), this columnist often heard rumours that when he really timed them, his humongous sixes crossed the college grounds, crossed Park Street, and landed well across the road.
The story may have been apocryphal, but given the fact that he had actually crossed Wankhede Stadium, it may have been true as well.
3. Doing a Waugh
It is well-known that Mark Waugh had replaced Steve Waugh in the Australian Test side — a news that Steve had to break over the dinner table. A similar thing had happened at the Ganguly household as well (albeit at one level lower), though it is not known whether Snehashish, the elder brother, was the person who let Sourav know.
Snehashish had not done anything of note in the 1989-90 Ranji Trophy, and had scored three in the semi-final against Hyderabad. Bengal captain Sambaran Banerjee had influenced the selectors to draft in the teenager Sourav to make his First-Class debut in the final at Eden Gardens. The reason? Ganguly Junior could bowl!
4. Ouch! Ouch!
Sahara Cup 1997 was, without a doubt, Ganguly’s finest series. When he came back in 1998, India started by winning the first match (though they eventually lost 1-4). Ganguly won the Man of the Match award again with three for 33 and a half-century, but in the process of the innings he “achieved” something rare.
The Pakistani fast bowlers, especially Mohammad Zahid, had come with a plan to work on Ganguly’s weakness. They bounced at him, and two of the blows turned out to be a bit too severe. He had to retire hurt on ten with the Indian score on 37 without loss. He resumed after India’s first wicket fell and retired hurt again for 54 with the team score on 187 for four.
It is not every day that you come across a man retiring twice in an international innings.
5. Like captain, like coach
When a dejected Ganguly walked back to the pavilion at Trent Bridge in 2002 after Steve Harmison had bowled him, John Wright may have broken into a wry smile in the Indian pavilion. It was Ganguly’s second 99 (the first had come four-and-a-half years back against Sri Lanka at Nagpur); Wright had also scored two 99s in his Test career.
6. The Test opener
Only once had Ganguly opened batting in a Test, and it was in the same Test where he had gone all the way in the first innings in 1997-98, hitting Kumar Dharmasena out of Wankhede. With India having secured a 151-run lead, Sachin Tendulkar promoted Ganguly (instead of Nayan Mongia) to open with Navjot Sidhu. It did not go too well: he fell to Pramodya Wickramasinghe for a 12-ball 11.
7. The send-off; well, almost
The 1997 tour of West Indies was not a good one for Tendulkar’s India: not only did they lose both the Test and One-Day International (ODI) series, but the tour also marked the beginning of a long series of injuries for Javagal Srinath. The third Test at Kensington Oval was a dramatic one: chasing 120 for a victory on a minefield, India were skittled out for 81 by Curtly Ambrose, Ian Bishop, and Franklyn Rose with VVS Laxman being the only one to reach double figures.
The onus came on Ganguly to go up to Tendulkar with an attempt to make him feel better. He tried to make the dejected Tendulkar “feel positive”. Tendulkar had promptly responded with the words “go for a run tomorrow morning”. For some reason, Ganguly had not turned up for the run; and Tendulkar, for once, was livid.
Ganguly later wrote in Sachin Tendulkar: The Man Cricket Loved Back: ““His [Tendulkar’s] face was almost purple with anger. He told me, in language that cannot be printed, that he was going to send me home and that I should sort myself out because my career could be ending. The thought of being sent home was enough to light a fire under my shoes. I wouldn’t have broken any records, never have, never will, but from the next morning I was up and running.”
8. Bidding farewell to Azhar…
Mohammad Azharuddin was Ganguly’s first international captain, but it is relatively less known that Ganguly was Azharuddin’s last international captain. Azharuddin played his last Test under Tendulkar, but when Ganguly took over as India’s ODI captain, Azharuddin played 11 ODIs with Ganguly as his captain: four in the controversial home series against South Africa, four more in the Coca-Cola Cup at Sharjah, and three more in the Asia Cup that followed.
9. Knock ’em out
India has played ten knock-out World Cup matches — two in 1983, one in 1987, two in 1996, two in 2003, and three more in 2011. Surprisingly, Ganguly is the only one to have scored a hundred in these matches when he got a 114-ball 111 not out against Kenya in the 2003 semi-final at Kingsmead.
10. Reality check
Post-retirement, Ganguly had seamlessly merged with the Indian commentators; along with Rahul Dravid, he brought a breath of fresh air in the men behind the microphone. As a parallel, Ganguly also became the anchor of Subhankar Chattopadhyay’s Dadagiri — a reality show on Zee Bangla — arguably the most popular Bengali show of its kind.
(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)