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8 July: Happy Birthday Sourav 'Dada' Ganguly

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sourav gangulyFew thought Sourav Ganguly was a companion to God on the off-side. For few, he reminded them of a modern day prince. An army general armed with an able army and a possessor of skill and ambition to emerge the best in the world. And mind you, these two thought processes were led by two equally legendary men.

The elegance of his batting is something that experts still rave about and the charms of him that still makes few girls go weak in the knees. The pages of the newspapers are jam packed and the online content boasts of many views that debate about his status as India’s greatest ever captain. Best or not, one has to admit that Sourav Ganguly is perhaps Independent India’s most talked about captain. His records as a captain and as one of the one day greats are often talked about. And by all means, those are the contributions that every Indian shall be proud of. Well, this is an attempt to write a story or let’s say a part of the story that made the legends of Sourav Chandidas Ganguly.

Cometh year 2000, Indian cricket in general and World cricket overall, was still down and out with the explosion of match fixing. The ever so holy cow and the man who entire South Africa trusted, Hansie Cronje admitted his presence in the match fixing. Back in India, Mohd.Azharuddin along with few others was found guilty. Sachin Tendulkar had resigned from the captaincy and was unwilling to have a second look at his decision. The fans belief about the game of cricket had hit the rock bottom. There was a complete lack of trust amongst the fans about the outcome of the matches.

Like every other game, the game of cricket is as much run by the fans as it is run by administrators and the players. Hence, losing out on fans’ trust is perhaps the worst dream an administrator of the game can go through. Given the moment, India needed a leader who could inspire and reignite the lost passion and trust towards the game. The next 4 years India went on to play a wonderful brand of cricket. Many wins overseas and a dream run at home not only made India a more respected side abroad but also re-gathered the lost trust. It was about reigniting the flame of belief in the minds of those who would have spared their left arm to watch a cricket match. Ganguly’s contribution in that regard is something that we shall all be proud of.

Ganguly as few might argue was fortunate to have Dravid, Kumble, Tendulkar, Laxman, and Srinath by his side. But at the same time, it was his initiative to infuse the youth in the team. Ganguly had and infact continue to have an eye to spot the talent and make them a part of the things for the future. He is the one who has vision to identify the boys who one day will turn big men of Indian cricket. For Ganguly, the mantra was to spot them young and back them so that they could become the pillars of Indian cricket. The tagline that might highlight this attitude might well be ‘Infuse the youth and marry them with experience’.

He was inspirational and backed the men/boys who he believed will do well for Indian cricket. There are players who swear by Ganguly for making them what they are today. The likes of Sehwag, Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Zaheer and even Irfan Pathan. By all means, they had the talent but Sourav backed them to the hilt. Sometime, even against the will and wishes of the selectors. The revival of Harbhajan Singh’s career in 2001 stand a perfect testimony for the same.Irfan Pathan still savours the moment at SCG when Ganguly just came to him and told him that he trusted Irfan to do the job with the new ball. At the same time, there was this side of his that annoyed many. Steve Waugh, one of the greats of the game openly admitted how Ganguly made him wait for the toss and annoyed him. He was one of those rare breeds amongst his contemporaries who gave back as good as he got. The chirp or two for him was not a big no-no. To put it shortly, he was inspirational, supportive and annoying depending upon which side of the coin you belong to.

He respected the game and more importantly those who have made contributions to make the game better. Awareness to the cricketing history was not something that he lacked at. However, he made sure that the pressure of history or for that matter captaincy did not bog him down. He dared to different than those who captained India before him. He was a rebel but one with a cause. One might say (perhaps with a tongue in cheek), that his joyride at Lords where he went bare chested is one of the defining moments of his career. But perhaps, that was one moment that the modern India and modern Indian still cherishes. For many, he was the torchbearer of the generation who had started believing that they belong to the modern world.

And as often as it had happened before, the leader in him has scored over the batsman he was. By no means, it is about understating or undervaluing his prowess as a batsman. But we in India continue to identify him as a leader who showed how to dream and how to achieve the dreams. Well, now he has done away with playing cricket (barring IPL) and now enjoys his cricketing time being a commentator and the head of the Technical Committee whose aim is to improve the standard of cricket in India. So, here we are wishing him the best on his birthday. May he continue to be an active part of the Indian cricket set up for a long time. As much as we need Tendulkars of the world, we still need the Gangulys to show us the way.



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