“This will be my last series,” … “Before coming here, I spoke to my team-mates and hopefully I will go out with a winning knock” Sourav Ganguly, yesterday, announced his retirement from International Cricket after the upcoming Oz series. The decision might be surprise for a few but it was expected ever since his name was included in the test squad. Ganguly has mentioned in the press conference that he wants this series to end on a high note without any controversies. But there will be definitely lots of talks in media over his retirement. However, I don’t wish to talk about the same issue.
Sourav Ganguly, is unarguably the best left hander India has ever produced. He is India’s most successful captain, a leader with the killer instinct and innovation, batsman of highest ability, class and elegance. Many of us love him and many of us hate him. But to me Sourav Ganguly has been a real inspirational role model. Throughout his career Ganguly made it his habit to defy the odds.
When he was first selected in 1996, there were many who doubted his selection saying that he was included in the side not on his ability but due to the quota system. He made one of the most splendid debuts in the test cricket hitting consecutive centuries against England in England. Ganguly never looked back again and in the coming few years was crowned the title ‘Prince of Kolkata’ by legendary Sir Geoff Boycott for his unmatched timing on the cricket ball. Soon, he became one of the most destructive one day player.
After the failure of the home test series against South Africa, Sachin Tendulkar resigned from the captaincy. Sourav took over from him and lead India to win the ODI series. But soon after winning the one-day series, there were allegations of match fixing on few of the leading players in the team then. The ban and retirement of few players after the incident left the team in the doldrums. It was during this juncture the great leader emerged in the Cricketing arena by the name of Sourav Ganguly aka DADA.
Ganguly rebuilt the team with a great vision. He identified the youngsters who had the potential and backed them to the hilt. At the same time he understood the importance of the seniors and fought with selectors many time for their place. The faith in the ability of new guns and veterans did wonder for the captain and the team. His enthusiastic sporting action and his aggressive nature in the field made a new style in the world of Cricket. The team reached the finals of the 2003 world cup, won the Champions Trophy and the very famous Natwest victory, defeating Australia in 2001 test series and then drawing against them in 2003-04, beating Pakistan in Pakistan for the first time. These were few of the achievements of this great cricketer. He dared to look into the eyes of the opposition and fought fire with fire.
Saurav was possibly the first Indian captain who lacked any regional bias while selecting players to the Indian team. The players like Harbhajan, Zaheer, Yuvraj, Sehwag, Dhoni, Irfan Pathan who are holding the team currently have been backed by Sourav and he has left a rich legacy for the team. But they say that the life is not bed of roses and Ganguly was sacked from the captaincy and lost his place in the side after the spat with the infamous coach Greig Chappell. He defied all odds again and made a dream comeback to the national side in the late 2006 against South Africa. He amassed over 1100 runs, with 239 his career-best score against Pakistan in Bangalore in late 2007, at a fantastic average of 61.44 last year, which compares very favourably with his career average of 41.74 in 109 Tests. In the same period he scored at an average of over 45 in the ODIs. This comeback indeed made him a true legend. Ganguly finished his one-day career with 11,363 runs in 311 matches, one of only seven batsmen to reach the 10,000-run mark in limited-overs cricket.
Off late, Ganguly lost his place in ODIs and his place in test was also not sure. He has announced his retirement at the right time. I say right time because this is the time when you need to start the systematic phase out of the seniors so that young players can be drafted into the team. This has been trend which is followed by Australians and it is heartening to see that Dada has lead in this department as well. I must admit that I have never seen any Indian great retire with grace like an Australian by announcing in advance. The others were practically removed. Dada has been all grace while quitting captaincy and cricket.
The void that will be left by Dada’s absence can not be filled but then the show must go on. Let’s hope that Ganguly will script one of the best swan song. I wish the loving Dada all the best for the upcoming series.
Ganguly’s Cricketing Trivia:
* Captained India in a record 49 Test matches
* Led India to a record 21 Test wins
* His test average has never been less than 40
* Hold the record of most 200+ ODI partnerships (6 times) along with Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting.
* Holds the record, shared with Sachin Tendulkar, for most 1st wicket ODI partnerships of 175+ runs (7 times).
* Holds the record, shared with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, for the second highest score by an Indian cricketer in an ODI — 183, against Sri Lanka in 1999.
* Held the record, shared with Sachin Tendulkar, for the highest first wicket partnership for India in an ODI match, 258, against Kenya in 2001. This record was bettered by Sri Lankan opening pair of Jayasuriya and Tharanga in 2006 at Headingley.
* Was involved in the first 300 run ODI partnership with Rahul Dravid.
* Sixth on the all time list with 31 Man of the Match awards.
* He is also the only player to win 4 consecutive Man of the Match awards in ODIs.
* India’s most successful ODI captain.
* First Indian to score an ODI century against Australia in Australia.
* Highest ODI runs scorer in the world (in a calendar year) in 1997,1999,2000.
* Third in the list of hitting maximum number of sixes in ODIs.
* Second in the list of highest number of centuries in a single calendar year ever. 7 centuries in 2000.