Sourav Ganguly is all set to play for IPL team Pune © AFP
Sourav Ganguly is all set to play for IPL team Pune © AFP


By Nishad Pai Vaidya


One man who never ceases to amaze the cricketing world with his comebacks is Sourav Ganguly. His returns have been special for two reasons: one, for the kind of national interest it evokes and, two, for his ability to prove the doubting Thomases wrong with the forcefulness of his performances on coming back.


He made it to the Indian ODI squad at age 19 for the Benson & Hedges World Series 1992. His debut against the West Indies wasn’t a sign of the start of a great career as he managed to score just three runs and was subsequently discarded.


Nearly four years later, in May 1996, Ganguly was back in the national squad for the tour of England following a good domestic season. Ganguly scored 46 in his comeback ODI, but it was his Test debut that was truly memorable. At the Mecca of cricket, Lord’s, Ganguly walked out to bat at No 3 and scored 131. He followed that with another hundred in the following Test – at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.


After 1996, he had become an indispensible part of the Indian batting line-up. He became captain in the year 2000 – a post he held for five years. In October 2005, Ganguly lost his captaincy and his place in the ODI team after the infamous spat with coach Greg Chappell. He continued to be a part of the Indian Test squad till early 2006, but was discarded again.


All eyes were on him as the World Cup was to be held in the following year in the West Indies. Ganguly continued to fight even as few were writing him off.


When India were swept clean by South Africa in an ODI series in late 2006, calls grew louder for Ganguly to be included in the Test series. The SOS went out and he was in for the Test matches. His performance wasn’t just an answer to those who wrote him off but also to those who said he cannot play on bouncy surfaces. As some of the Indian batsmen struggled to maintain consistency throughout the series, Ganguly displayed a strength of character that one can associate with him. He was India’s highest run scorer in that series and it was the start of a fantastic run in Test cricket for him.


Fast forward to September 2008. After a tough series in Sri Lanka, Ganguly was not picked for the Irani Trophy. Australia arrived in India immediately after that for a four match Test series and the selectors decided to include him. On the eve of the Test series he announced that it would be his last series for India and would call it a day after its conclusion. He had a point to prove and wanted to retire on a high which he certainly did. India beat Australia 2-0 to win the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Ganguly was one of the stars of that series. He played crucial knocks both the victories India enjoyed in that series.


Ganguly’s name has come out of nowhere in Pune Warriors India’s squad as a replacement for the injured Ashish Nehra. When he wasn’t picked by any franchise in the auction earlier this year, one really felt that it was the end of the road for him. Kochi’s repeated attempts to get him in their ranks failed and it looked like the final nail in the coffin. However, he looks all set to be a part of the Indian Premier League season four.


Whenever Ganguly made a comeback to the national team it was on the back of good performances at the domestic level after which it became almost impossible to deny him a place. But his latest comeback is significantly different as he hasn’t played cricket since December 2010.


His inclusion in the Pune Warriors team seems more a reward by Subroto Roy for being the iconic cricketer from Bengal Ganguly was and not little to do with his form or performances. Maybe, it’s his tryst with destiny. Maybe somebody up there who wants see him play. Maybe he could yet again surprise everyone.


It is very difficult to predict what he would do in this IPL. In the last edition, we saw his fighting spirit. He scored runs consistently and fielded brilliantly to surprise everybody. It has been quite some time since he played cricket and it would not be easy for him to perform the way he used to, but one can never write off this fighter from Bengal. You can bet your last penny that he will fight it out all the way. The Pune Warriors are struggling at the bottom of the table and need to win all their matches to qualify for the knock-outs. If they are to accomplish this difficult task, Ganguly would have to play a key role to change their fortunes.


Will this be another fairytale comeback?


(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)