Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Tribute to Saurav Ganguly...

Retirement deal or not, who cares.

The best of them have to go one day and some of them don't realise when the time is right. In times like these the board intervenes and makes sure they get a good farewell.

This has happened in Australia for a long time now and I'm glad that India and Pakistan are starting to do the same.

Its no secret that Inzamam went under a retirement deal last year. At the end, it didn't matter whether he chose to retire or was forced to. His time was up and he got a resounding farewell.

I'm sure Saurav Ganguly will as well. For he sure deserves it.

Its only apt that his farewell series is against Australia, just like Steve Waugh's was against India.

I wish the BCCI flies Steve Waugh down for the 4th test to present Ganguly with some sort of memento for his service to Indian cricket.

What a wonderful moment that would be!

I have always been a Ganguly fan, but not many in Pakistan like him. He is arrogant, mean, rude, in your face, and has that ability to get under your skin.

These qualities coupled with him being a thorn in Pakistan's flesh are reasons enough to hate him and boy do the Pakistanis hate him. They hate him with a passion.

I, on the other hand, have always admired his attitude. If he got under the skin of the Pakistanis, he did so under the Aussies too. And that too at a time when the Australians were unshakeable.

Steve Waugh was ruthless and the cricketing world faced his wrath. But he faced Ganguly's.

That series against Australia in 2001 is what changed my opinion of Ganguly. I became an avid fan then and remain one to date.

As his career comes to an end, here are my 10 favorite Ganguly moments. Ones that will remain in mind forever.

10. Love on First Sight

I remember that India was having problems finding a suitable partner for Sachin at the top of the order in ODIs when in a match against South Africa during the Titan Cup in 1996, out walked Ganguly to open the innings with the little master.

Ganguly's 54 in that match and his partnership of 126 with Sachin was the beginning of not only India's, but the world's best ever opening combination in ODIs. The 2 went on to add another 6,000 odd runs at the top of the order.

9. Dream Debut

I was following India's tour to England in 1996 with keen interest as Pakistan's tour was to follow. England easily won the 1st test of the 3 match series against India, which resulted in India making some changes to its line up for the 2nd test at Lord's.

Out went Sanjay Manjerekar and Sunil Joshi and in came debutants Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid.

Ganguly walked out to bat at the fall of the 1st wicket and on debut he knocked his maiden test 100 scoring 131 and helping India to a total of over 400. Dravid was unlucky to miss out on a debut 100, but he along with Ganguly went on to become half of India's Big 4, who will now be playing their last test series together.

8. Home Coming

Ganguly had scored 13 test 100s in 90 odd tests matches but that 1 century on his home ground (Eden Gardens, Kolkata) and a double 100 had eluded him throughout his career. He managed both feats against Pakistan in the space of 2 test matches at the end of last year (2007).

He scored 102 in the 2nd test of the 3 test series in Kolkata and he followed that up with a career best 239 in the 3rd test of the same series. I still remember watching those innings and they had Ganguly written all over them. The patented strokes through the offside, the dancing down the wicket, and the fisted pump celebrations. It didn't matter that they were scored on flat tracks against mediocre bowling. They were scored nonetheless.

Considering that he played those knocks less than a year ago, it is hard to believe that he is no longer considered a force in India's middle order.

7. Threatening the Record Books

I distinctly remember hoping for Ganguly's dismissal near the end of India's innings as he smashed the Lankans to all parts of the ground during their match in the 1999 World Cup.

He finally got dismissed in the final over of India's innings, having smashed an astounding 183 off 158 deliveries, and all of us heaved a sigh of relief as Saeed Anwar's record remained intact.

He shared a 2nd wicket partnership of 318 with Dravid as India piled on 373-6 in 50 overs. I believe these were records at that time for either the best ever of 2nd best ever partnerhip and score.

6. Comeback Kid

Ganguly's career seemed over after his fall out with coach Greg Chappell and his axing from both the ODI and test squads at the beginning of 2006. He sat the whole year out but returned to the fold as India's batsmen struggled on the tour of South Africa at the end of 2006.

First he saved India with a top score in a side game against one of the first class sides and then followed that up with an unbeaten 51 in the 1st innings of the 1st test. That 51 was the highest score on India's side and went a long way in ensuring that India took a 1-0 lead in the test matc series against South Africa.

Quite a comeback Ganguly had made and it was all through determination and hardwork, which he had showed the selectors during India's domestic season.

5. Decimating Pakistan

Ganguly the batsman had arrived a year ago and now it was time for Ganguly the bowler to rise.

In the late 90s, Pakistan and India played an annual series of 5 ODIs in Toronto in what was called the Sahara Cup. The one held in 1997 had Ganguly written all over it. He played some fine knocks during the tournament but it was his bowling that left Pakistan in tatters on more than one occasion.

In the 3rd ODI of the 1997 Sahara Cup, Pakistan had bowled India out for 180 odd and looked set to chase down the total easily. I remember watching Saeed Anwar and Shahid Afridi punish the Indian bowling and 180 didn't look daunting at all.

But then came on Ganguly who utilized the swing conditions to perfection and his frustrating medium pace got him figures of 5-16 in 10 overs as Pakistan were bowled out for less than 150!

Those figures remain his best bowling figures to date.

4. Spoiling Waugh's Swansong

When Dravid and Sachin score 1 run between them, it doesn't augur too well for the rest of the Indian batsmen. Reeling at 62-3 against Australia at Brisbane in Steve Waugh's farewell series, I remember watching a determined Ganguly walking out to the middle.

By the end of the 4th day of that 1st test, Ganguly had scored an impressive 144 off only 196 deliveries to help India past Australia's total that saved them the test match. It was a brilliant knock by Ganguly who had been pinpointed as the weak link in India's batting line up prior to the test series.

3. Turning the Tide

Throughout the 90s Pakistan held a psychological edge over India, but all of that changed one dark evening in Dhaka in 1998.

It was the final of the Silver Jubilee Cup and Pakistan had set India a target of 315. If history was anything to go by, India's innings would have folded for 200 odd that night, but Ganguly had different plans.

He smashed 124 while opening the innings as India inched close to the target. India won the match in the last over in fading light and that day all the psychological holds Pakistan held over India were wiped out.

2. The Final Frontier

It was Steve Waugh's final frontier and Ganguly denied him. Though it can be argued that Laxman and Harbhajan denied Australia, Ganguly was at the forefront of it all.

The celebration that Ganguly broke out into as Sameer Dighe hit the winning runs is still etched in my memory. I remember being a part of the crowd at our college cafeteria watching the closing moments of one of the most entertaining test series ever.

I remember McGrath bowling to Dighe and Ganguly sitting in the dressing room all tense and nervous. Dighe got India home and Ganguly ran on to the field. I can never forget Ganguly's look after winning the series against Australia.

Magic it was. And I'll tell you Indians a secret. All of Pakistan was behind you then!

1. The Gangulian Wave

I think this moment is the most appropriate Ganguly moment. It is something that defines him and describes the kind of competitor he was / is.

Many ridiculed him because of this and suggested that such acts are not deemed suitable to a captain of an international side.

But in my mind this was one moment that had Ganguly stamped all over it and I sure enjoyed it. I am sure it was also enjoyed by all of India and many others as India pulled off the most unlikeliest of run chases in the Natwest Trophy Final against England in 2002.

This is probably the one single moment that will remain in people's memories as the years go by and Ganguly's legacy is remembered and told to generations that follow.

He was India's best captain ever and his captaincy record will remain untouched for some time to come.

Those who hail Dhoni today and regard him as one of the finest leaders should remember that it was Ganguly who started what Dhoni is continuing today.

Tomorrow is the beginning of the end for Ganguly and I hope that in this series he is able to produce some more memorable moments that can eclipse a few of the ones listed above.

Make your pitch on this post...

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13 Pitched:

  1. Gaurav Sethi said...

    Fabulous Time Travel Q!

    Like the Steve Waugh fly down idea, yr cafe anecdote, the countdown, and take on all things Ganguly.

    There's a lotta positivity here - just what Saurav needs to read. Reckon they can write it all on that shirt at Eden.

  2. Anonymous said...

    I had the pleasure of meeting Sourav, his lovely wife Dona and child at the Hobart Acquatic Centre in the summer of 2003/04 and while our children splashed and laughed in the pool we enjoyed an engaging conversation about cricket, travel and parenting.

    Later that day our families shared a meal where he brought along a bat signed by Sachin (not himself mind you, very humble) and gave it to my then 4 year old son.

    Off the field, visiting my city, he was the perfect gentleman and his wife and mine still send birthday cards commemorating our children's birthdays.

    He deserves a supreme send-off, worthy of a king, and if he survives to Nagpur I'm sure he'll receive it.

  3. Q said...

    Thanks NC!

    Whats this shirt ur talking about?

  4. Q said...

    That sounds like an awesome experience Nesta.

  5. straight point said...

    that was some travelogue on SG Q...

    i sincerely believe that it was under him that we buried the tag of 'soft traveler' for once and all...

  6. Anonymous said...

    Lovely memories, Q. It takes a honest and generous person to praise a cricketer from another country. Cheers!

    @nesta, that's so sweet. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Samir Chopra said...

    Q: a very comprehensive post - brings back lots of memories. Thanks!

  8. Soulberry said...

    Thanks Q for the wonderful recollections. Every person who appreciates Ganguly will like this as I think even those who otherwise may not think much of him.

    Nestaqin, that's a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Q said...

    SP, VM, Sam, SB - Thank you!

  10. Ron said...

    I remember each one of the ten episodes of your post, but then I'm an Indian and an SG fan. I haven't followed the fortunes of any other team even half as keenly, and so I doff my hat to you.
    Incidentally, I had expected SG to be liked in Pakistan. I recall reading somewhere that he was good friends with many in the Pak team, and particularly Shahid Afridi.

  11. Q said...

    Thank you Ron. Keep visiting!

  12. Anonymous said...

    @ Q,
    This is simply brilliant.
    I have no other word to describe your article. Coming from a non-indian cricket fan, its priceless.

    I have formally linked this article to mine.
    Thanks for a lovely read.

  13. Q said...

    Thanks Chinaman.

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