On October 1, 1999, Sourav Ganguly made most of a dropped catch and a run-out to smash Zimbabwe for 139 in an innings laced with shots which he is widely known for, in the LG Cup at Naroibi. Nishad Pai Vaidya revisits that day.
When on song, Sourav Ganguly could tear the best bowling apart in the one-day game. Rahul Dravid once said that on the off-side first there is god and then there is Ganguly. A typical Ganguly one-day innings used to be full of gracious cuts and elegant cover-drives, timed to perfection. A spinner dreaded that nonchalant waltz to the pitch as the ball would sail out of the ground in a flash. That was what Ganguly could do to you.
For a major part of the 1990s, Sachin Tendulkar shouldered the burden of the Indian batting and almost single-handedly won them games. However, the emergence of Ganguly as an able opening partner took a lot of burden off Tendulkar. At the other end, the southpaw could almost match him for every stroke and in tandem, they forged the most prolific partnership in ODIs. But, an Indian team without Tendulkar was still unimaginable then. Yet, when he was injured or was on a break, it was Ganguly who took more responsibility at the top and delivered for the side.
In the absence of skipper Tendulkar, Ajay Jadeja lead the Indian team. The other teams in the LG cup were South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya. India breezed past South Africa and Kenya, assuring themselves a spot in the final. The final league game was against Zimbabwe and India were the overwhelming favourites.
Zimbabwe captain Alistair Campbell won the toss and put India in to bat. They had a battery of seamers in Neil Johnson, Pommie Mbangwa and Henry Olonga. Sadagopan Ramesh was Ganguly’s opening partner for the game and they started off in steady fashion to the Zimbabwe pacers. Johnson was the key, but Zimbabwe lost him to injury early in the innings. He couldn’t bowl anymore in the game. India were going along smoothly until Ramesh was bowled by Guy Whittall with the score on 70 in the 17th over.
Instead of Dravid, Robin Singh joined Ganguly in the centre and they started constructing a partnership that laid the foundation for a later assault. Robin and Ganguly were going along well and got to India’s hundred in the 24th over. Ganguly also moved past 50 as Robin held one end. But, it was Prince of Kolkata’s day as he lived a charmed life. In his 60s, Mbangwa grassed an easy chance.
It was a typical Ganguly hundred with the signature shots all over. It wasn’t surprising that his first six came off a spinner as Grant Flower was hit down the ground. The southpaw was only warming up. At the other end, Singh fell for 41 with the score on 177 and Dravid joined Ganguly.
When he was on 97, Ganguly breathed another sigh of relief when a throw missed the stumps as he ran in. But, in the 41st over, he got to his ton. It had taken him 125 balls and he had 11 fours and a six. That was when he got into his hitting zone. A few wickets fell at the other end, but he smashed four sixes after getting to his ton to take his score to 139. The mid-wicket boundary was peppered by Ganguly and earmarked for some treatment. His innings came to an end when he got carried away and offered a catch to Campbell in the covers. India eventually finished on 277 for six.
India 277 for 6 in 50 overs (Sourav Ganguly 139, Robin Singh 41; Guy Whittall 3 for 55) beat Zimbabwe 170 in 38.3 overs (Neil Johnson 51; Nikhil Chopra 4 for 33, R Vijay Bharadwaj 3 for 34) by 107 runs.
Man of the Match: Sourav Ganguly