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Sourav Ganguly Birthday Special: Tribute to the leader who put Team India on winning ways

Sourav Ganguly, a prolific One Day International (ODI) player who always backed his instincts to bring out the best from his team, never shied away from taking the challenges head-on.

Aditya Kumar | New Delhi |

It was the NatWest Series final 2002, India were playing against England chasing a mammoth 326, No. 10 batsman Zaheer Khan was on the strike while the man in form Mohammed Kaif was at the non-striker end. Andrew Flintoff bowled the third ball of the final over with India requiring 2 runs to win.

Khan nudged the ball into covers and the batsmen sprinted like hares to collect the winning runs, in what was the highest chase ever by any team at Lord’s in ODIs. Meanwhile, someone from the balcony of the hallowed Lord’s was waving his shirt. This man was none other than the then India captain Sourav Ganguly. The glare in his eyes looked more like burning embers.

Sourav Ganguly’s reaction to the Indian win became a cult moment in the history of world cricket. An ‘in-your-face captain’ waving the shirt forced the world to reckon the arrival of a completely new Indian team who could challenge any opponent and defy the odds to create history.

Sourav Ganguly, a prolific One Day International (ODI) player who always backed his instincts to bring out the best from his team, never shied away from taking the challenges head-on. From almost scoring a double hundred in the 1999 World Cup against Sri Lanka to leading India to the 2003 World Cup semi-finals, Indian cricket witnessed a series of some of the most iconic moments under Maharaj’s leadership.

The ‘God of off side’ was born to Chandidas and Nirupa Ganguly on 8 July, 1972 as their youngest son.

After making his mark on the domestic scene to scoring a Test century on debut at Lord’s, Ganguly dominated the opposition like a pro and had the captains and bowlers in a state of disarray.

The kid who had been flying kites when Kapil Dev hit the crucial match-saving 175 at Tunbridge Wells against Zimbabwe at 1983 World Cup was leading Team India and as pundits put it, one of the most successful captains ever.

But the journey which highlights Ganguly’s heydays does contain periods where the southpaw had to beat the odds to prove his mettle. One such moment was his omission from the Indian team just after his international debut.

Ganguly’s 3 runs in his maiden ODI match against the West Indies in January 1992 could not serve his cause and the left-hander had to wait for four long years to get another shot at the international level. But, the ‘Prince of Kolkata’ not only returned stronger but also a much more mature and confident player who would go on to rewrite history.

“My journey may not have been successful but then failure has always been the best teacher!” says Ganguly in his autobiography ‘A Century Is Not Enough’.

In June 1996, Ganguly made his Test debut against England at Lord’s and scored his first international century (131 runs), and never looked back since then. Out of the 113 Test matches he played for India, Ganguly amassed 7,212 runs, including 16 centuries with a top score of 239.

Riding on brilliant Test figures, Ganguly was equally impressive in the ODIs. The former India captain has 11,363 runs from 311 ODIs he played with 22 centuries against his name.

In 2000, the Indian team was going through a tough phase because of the match-fixing scandal. Meanwhile, Sachin Tendulkar stepped down as the captain and Ganguly was handed the responsibility to lead Team India; and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Prince of Kolkata led the Indian team to many accolades on the global stage. He captained India in 49 Tests and 147 ODIs where India won 21 and 76 matches, respectively.

It was under the leadership of Dada that India reached the 2003 World Cup final, which they lost to Australia by 125 runs. Apart from this, Ganguly drew Test series in England (2002) and in Australia (2003-04) and beat Pakistan in their own backyard (2003-04).

It would not be an overstatement to say Ganguly inspired his colleagues to look the challenge in the eye and laid the foundation for a brand new Team India that feared none.

After taking the Indian cricket to new heights, the ‘God of off side’ called it a day from all formats of cricket in 2008, scoring an 85 in his final Test match against Australia in Nagpur.

To sum up in his own words, Ganguly in his autobiography says, “For me, cricket had finished but life was calling me for a much longer and more challenging second innings. Umpire, middle stump, please.”

Happy Birthday, Dada!

On Dada’s 47th birthday, let’s take a walk down memory lane to relive some of his achievements.

  • Ganguly made 239 — his career-best in Tests playing against Pakistan in 2007 at M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
  • In India’s World Cup match against Sri Lanka at Taunton in 1999, Ganguly scored 183 — his career-best in ODIs. India won the match by 157 runs.
  • Ganguly with 11,363 runs in ODIs is currently the second highest run-scorer for India after Sachin Tendulkar (18,246 runs), and is the eighth highest in the world.
  • Being a decent right-arm medium fast bowler, Ganguly took 100 and 32 wickets in ODIs and Tests, respectively.
  • Under the leadership of Dada, India in 2002 won the ICC Champions Trophy (joint-winner with the hosts Sri Lanka).
  • “Sourav, in you I saw a captain who wanted to take Indian cricket to a different level and someone who deeply cared for his team,” said former England captain Nasser Hussain for Sourav Ganguly in his speech at the Aaj Tak cricket conclave in London in 2017.