Insight Bureau: When one speaks of great Indian skippers, actually scratch that, great captains of all time, one name that will feature on the list is that of Sourav Ganguly. Between 2000 to 2005 he was our leader, and a fearless one at that. A man who led from the front, got us into a World Cup final after 20 years, helped us conquer the mighty Aussies and also taught us to be aggressive.
Let’s not forget that he was also an accomplished batsman. The man has over 11,000 ODI runs in more than 300 games, an average in excess of 40 and 20-plus centuries to his name. In Tests, while his record is perhaps not in the high numbers like Rahul Dravid or Sachin Tendulkar, 7000-plus runs with a 40-plus average is no mean feat. Remember he got a hundred on Test debut and then one in the very next game. Also Ganguly has never scored a Test ton in a losing cause for India.
Diplomacy would not be one of his main strengths because Dada as he is affectionately called, is one who always speaks his mind. Sadly, it has ended up in him courting his share of controversies and getting into trouble with match officials. Run-ins with umpires and match referees saw hefty fines along with match bans which went hand in hand with his glorious career. He was called by many as the Bad Boy of Indian Cricket due to him butting heads with even the selectors when required.
The man, as mentioned earlier, is a no-nonsense guy. He backs up his words with deeds and they are a statement in themselves. Who can forget him waving his shirt on the Lord’s balcony after the epic Natwest Trophy win over England in 2002? Could anyone else dare to do that? One does not thing so. Not to mention his epic duel with Steve Waugh. Ganguly was the man who stood toe to toe with the Aussies. He made the Indians counter them with mind games of their own and the World Champions suddenly realised they had a fight on their hands. Be it making Waugh wait for the toss, or giving him a huge sendoff, Ganguly was always in the opposition’s face. With him at the helm, India ended the Aussie rampage of 16 straight test wins and then won their first Test Down Under after over 2 decades.
The man also had a keen eye for spotting talent. The likes of Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and MS Dhoni were given a chance thanks to his input and they all went on to shine for India. In fact the success Dhoni had in winning with Team India was built on the foundation created by Ganguly. When needed Ganguly fought for his players and if the need of the hour was to drop one of them, he would not hesitate to take the tough call. Anil Kumble is a prime example as Ganguly used him well in the first half of the first decade of the 21st century.
The feud with Greg Chappell saw a dark chapter in Indian cricket. Ironically it was Dada himself who suggested Chappell’s name for coach. It eventually led to his ouster from the team and a lesser man would have cowered, but not Dada. He fought his way back and had a great run for nearly 2 years before finally retiring on his own terms with a Test series win over Australia.
Now in his new role as BCCI president, he is bringing in the qualities that made him a great leader. If he does ever go into politics, he is bound to do well, because as captain he proved how able a statesman he is.
Love him or hate him, you cannot ignore him. The Maharaj of Indian cricket was the one who played it straight at the helm, at the crease and is now doing just that in life. There are no in betweens for him. For Sourav is the hero Indian cricket got in its darkest hour in the backdrop of the match-fixing scandal. From there to turn the Men in Blue into a side of match-winners and make Team India what it is today is a big deal. A man of many layers, but a fighter to the end, that is Dada for you.