Sourav Ganguly, Shane Warner, IPL 2008, Kolkata Knight Riders Rajasthan Royals
Sourav Ganguly gets into a heated argument with Shane Warne © PTI

All is well between Sourav Ganguly and Shane Warne now. They share a cordial bond, and are a treat to masses when they commentate or appear together as guests in shows. From friendly banters to relaying their playing days’ rivalry, all of it is remembered with fun and laughter.

During the 2017 Champions Trophy, Ganguly won a bet against Warne and made the Australian sport arch-rival England’s jersey. In 2017, on a television programme called Salaam Cricket, Ganguly called Warne the best bowler he faced. Warne returned the favours by calling Ganguly one of the best batters against spin bowling and a captain capable of giving Australia its own dose and converting India to one of the best sides.

Ganguly took a friendly jibe, stating Warne would sledge him throughout his career. Warne would shoot back: “I sledged him thinking I could get him out but that only made him more determined.”

But let us narrate tales of their camaraderie for some other time. During their playing days, there was little amity between the two. Their relation hit a low point during the inaugural IPL in 2008. The Ganguly-led Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) were playing an away game against Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals (RR) at Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Jaipur.

Here’s what happened:

Chasing 197, KKR were struggling at 106 for 3 in the 13th over. Ganguly and David Hussey had begun opening up. In the last ball of the 13th over, Ganguly pulled a short ball from Yusuf Pathan against the turn, towards deep mid-wicket. Graeme Smith charged in and cupped a low catch.  

Smith was convinced about the take, RR broke into celebrations. However, Ganguly was unmoved. Unsure of the legitimacy of the catch, he requested umpire GA Pratapkumar to refer to TV umpire Asad Rauf.

Watch the incident

Though it seemed Smith had pouched it cleanly, the replays were inconclusive and Ganguly got the benefit of doubt from Rauf. A livid Warne charged at his opposition skipper for not abiding by the spirit of the game and taking the word of Smith (then captain of South Africa) at face value.

Warne bowled the next over. When Ganguly got to the non-striker’s end, an angry Warne muttered: “Justice will get you, Sourav. Justice will.” The words were picked up by the stump microphone.

Shane Warne, Arjuna Ranatunga and who swallowed what
Shane Warne, Arjuna Ranatunga and who swallowed what

Ganguly eventually fell to the penultimate ball of that over for 51, trying to clear long-on. Things did not stop there…

Warne lashed out at Ganguly in the post-match press conference: “I was disappointed because in Bangalore we signed that wall about the spirit of cricket. If an international captain like Graeme Smith caught it and said it was a clean catch and Rudi Koertzen said he caught it, easy … Anyway, the players aren’t allowed to ask for the umpire. But Sourav asked the Indian umpire to go to the TV replay. That’s not in the spirit of the game so I was very, very disappointed with Sourav.”

After Waugh, Ganguly targets Warne

Warne lodged a complaint to match referee Farokh Engineer. Not walking, as things turned out, was just a part of the complaint. Ganguly had apparently given Warne a dose identical to what he had dished out to Steve Waugh seven years prior. This time Ganguly had made Warne’s entire team wait.

Warne was fuming despite the 45-run victory: “I was disappointed at the start. While batting we waited for five minutes under the hot sun and they were not anywhere to be seen.

“When we came out to field, we had to wait for Sourav. So I was really disappointed; he was really running the time. He was going on his own time. Twenty20 is meant to be one hour 20 minutes for each side, but we were waiting for him.

“We just waited for Sourav to come out. When we were out on the field, we all stood there waiting. I don’t know what he was doing. He wanted extra time.”

Ganguly shoots back

Ganguly isn’t the kind who would gulp down harsh words. In an interview with Times Now, he made a reference to Warne’s controversial past and went on to defend his actions: “Is complaining against a dropped catch against the spirit of the game? We just need to look at Warne’s career to understand that he has no moral right to teach what the spirit of the game is. I just want to laugh at what Warne is saying. He should not be talking about the spirit of the game.

“I told him [the umpire] the catch was not taken cleanly. Referring to the third umpire was his decision. The umpires have not told me anything so I don’t know what Warney is trying to say.”

Ganguly found support in KKR CEO Joy Bhattacharya, who maintained that Ganguly’s actions were within the game’s laws and Warne is no stranger to controversies.

What Smith said

“It was cleanly taken … there is no doubt about that,” said Smith. “The replay also suggests that the catch was clean. It’s really nice to know your captain backing you during controversy.”  

Ganguly, however, was quick to give the benefit of doubt to Smith: “I have a good relationship with Graeme Smith and I have enough respect for him. I don’t want to drag him into it. But the thing is in cases like this, often the fielder does not realise that he had actually taken a drop catch.”

Aftermath

Both Ganguly and Warne were docked 10 per cent of their match fees. Engineer classified Ganguly’s act as a Level 1 offence according to ICC’s code of conduct. Warne, too, was found guilty of violating section 1.7 of the code that deals with “public criticism of, or inappropriate comment on, a match-related incident or official”.

Sourav Ganguly, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke
Ricky Ponting signals Sourav Ganguly ‘out’ after Michael Clarke grassed a catch (Image courtesy: Getty)

The infamous Sydney Test had been played only four months ago. Ganguly could be forgiven for his act. Michael Clarke had grassed Ganguly’s catch in the second innings but had claimed the wicket. Mark Benson had taken his word and gave Ganguly out. That had proved decisive to the game’s fate. It was one of several decisions that went against India during that Test.

The Australians had shown little regard towards the spirit of cricket. Indian skipper Anil Kumble had famously remarked a la Bill Woodfull: “Only one team was playing with the spirit of the game.”

Warne’s Century

Ganguly retired from international cricket in 2008-09. Warne, already retired in 2006-07, was still bitter on the former Indian skipper. Warne released a book on top 100 cricketers of his choice titled Shane Warne’s Century in late 2008. He put Ganguly at 96th, describing him as an “intelligent bloke”. However, some of his observations on Ganguly did not go well with most Indian fans.

“Sourav Ganguly might not be my cup of tea as a bloke, but what he did for Indian cricket has to be respected.

“He is a feisty sort of character, not short of self-confidence or unaware of his standing in Indian life. He is regarded over there, especially around his teeming home city of Calcutta, as one of the greatest ever Indian captains. They won more games under him than anybody else, so I guess the statistics back that up. Personally, I am not so sure.”

“Supporters know him as the Prince of Calcutta. The story is that he gave himself the nickname and it stuck.”

Change of heart

Time is the best healer they say. With time, Warne forgave Ganguly. When he selected an all-time Indian Test XI in 2015, Warne picked Ganguly ahead of his old tormentor VVS Laxman. He also named Ganguly captain.

Later, on Salaam Cricket, Warne went on to praise Ganguly’s tactic of making Waugh and other captains wait to get under their nerves as brilliant tactical moves in hindsight.

IPL 2008

Coming back to the Jaipur match of 2008, Warne had the last laugh. Royals won the game comfortably after Swapnil Asnodkar lit up Jaipur on his IPL debut. The side continued with the momentum as Warne guided Rajasthan to title win in the inaugural edition of IPL. KKR finished sixth and Ganguly lost his captaincy in the next edition.

Brief scores

Rajasthan Royals 196 for 7 in 20 overs [Swapnil Asnodkar 60 (34), Yusuf Pathan 55 (33), Ravindra Jadeja 33 (19); Umar Gul 4-0-33-3] beat Kolkata Knight Riders 151 in 19.1 overs  [Sourav Ganguly 51 (39), David Hussey 42 (30); Shane Watson 3.1-0-22-2, Sohail Tanvir 4-0-30-2, Siddharth Trivedi 4-0-31-2] by 45 runs.

Man of the Match: Swapnil Asnodkar.