Wednesday, October 08, 2008

And one last thing, lads, before I leave...

My favourite Sourav moment isn't his shirt waving at Lord's, his magnificent century on Test debut or even his triumphant Australia tour in 2003-04. It is in fact an advertisement he did while he was out of the Indian Team, in support of Rahul Dravid's World Cup team. It went like this, "Hi, My name is Sourav Ganguly. I hope you haven't forgotten me. Whatever happened, why it happened I don’t know. I am practicing hard to come back into the team.Who knows I might get another chance to swirl my shirt in the air! In the field or outside the field, I wont keep quiet. For every match of India I am going to cheer them like this and so should you… my team will feel good.You will listen to your ‘Dada’ right?” For me that summed up Ganguly. It takes immense courage to acknowledge that you've been been dropped and might never make it back to the team. It takes even more courage parade naked emotions on national TV. But emotions have been Ganguly's forte. As a player and a captain, he always wore his heart on his sleeve. Not many warmed up the man when he broke into the national side after his brilliant debut at Lord's in 1996. He had his own way, was an aristocrat and didn't care much for authority. These qualities, in the sycophancy -driven BCCI setup are almost sure to finish off your career, but the man managed to come out playing over a 100 tests and 300 ODIs. Oh, and he turned out to be the country's most successful captain as well.
Sourav has had many highlights throughout his illustrious career. But I saw him come into his own during the captaincy phase. Under him, India weren't the same team of old...happy to go quietly into the night. There was a steely resolve to fight, to believe, to give back as good as given. Building a new team and throwing his weight behind youngsters like Sehwag, Harbhajan, Yuvraj and Kaif, he instilled an entirely new character into a team of talented but generally directionless youngsters. The BCCI can thank him for the the team they see now. You could always count on him to put up a fight, against the system, against the defeatist baggage of earlier Indian teams and even against the mighty and unflappable Australians. Steven Waugh will always remember him as the man who spoilt his party. Love him or hate him, but you couldn't ignore Boycott's Prince of Kolkata. He will be remembered with much more respect than he has been accorded of late, sure to be classed among India's best captains ever along with Tiger Pataudi and Ravi Shastri. When all seemed lost there was always Sourav and his team who gave us something something to cheer about. The legendary scraps with the Aussies, the Natwest trophy finals, the one man show at the Sahara Cup in Canada and the dream run in the World Cup in South Africa. India was back on the cricketing map and a force to contend with. No longer the tigers at home and the mice abroad. All this and a team for the future.
Indian cricket and I will miss the left handed captain courageous, Kolkata's favourite son, and the once 'God of the offside'. So long, Sourav. And thanks for the memories.