How do you define cricket in India?
It’s not a game which involves a few teams with 11 players each. It is not a sport which entertains us.
Cricket in India is actually a religion and an emotion that binds over a billion people in the country and each and every match of cricket has its own due importance.
And just as there are distinct kinds of matches, the game, and the players have distinct kinds of idols too.
Talking of the current era, while some idolize Virat Kohli, others go for Rohit Sharma and some other are die-hard MS Dhoni fans.
However, there was a time period in cricket when Indian fans idolized the entire team with none other than Sourav Ganguly or ‘Dada’ as the captain.
Virat Kohli is aggressive, you would agree, but who really taught the Indians the art of aggression in cricket?
The man who took out his shirt on the Lord’s Cricket Ground balcony after the victory in the NatWest Series 2002 and waved it to show his utter supremacy in the game.
Sourav Ganguly is certainly the ‘Prince of Kolkata’ who has been an epitome of leadership in his own unique style, making the careers of many and getting the Indian cricket team its due respect in the world.
He is regarded as the best captain of the Indian side even after the greats such as Kapil Dev, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Mohd. Azharuddin, and Virat Kohli etc.
However, though these skippers might be too ahead of him in records or on papers, the fact is, Sourav Ganguly is the one and only skipper who can never be produced again.
And why is this so?
Well, here I have compiled some of the reasons which make Sourav Ganguly a sheer genius, farsighted and one of the bests in the business:
Incidents Which Make Sourav Ganguly Special:
Captaincy After Match-Fixing Allegations:
The darkest hour in the Indian cricket history was in the late 1990s when a number of good players such as Manoj Prabhakar, Mohd. Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja etc. were caught being in contact with the bookies and fixing the matches.
While the guilty were punished by banning them forever from all forms of cricket, the Indians and the world looked down upon the team and considered them criminals.
In fact, the team was on the verge of falling apart. To prevent this, the selectors wished to offer the captaincy to Sachin Tendulkar who politely refused to it.
In such a case, they had no other option but to make Sourav Ganguly the skipper who accepted the challenge and made a team out of fallen apart cricketers.
Needless to mention, what followed rest was history and the finals of the World Cup 2003 was an example of how well he managed and nurtured his team in just a few years.
The Kumble Incidence:
Who can forget the making of the legend ‘Anil Kumble’ whose story owes to the highness of Sourav Ganguly?
According to him, “The selectors were picking (Murali) Kartik saying ‘Kumble doesn’t pick wickets outside India’. But I was hell bent and said I won’t go without Kumble as the meeting went on till 2’o clock in the night,” Ganguly told in an interview.
“Selectors told me if Kumble doesn’t take wickets and the team doesn’t do well, ‘we’ll have a new captain’.
However, the selectors had to agree to his wishes, offering Kumble a place in the squad against Kartik, and what followed this was history.
India drew the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2003-04 to retain it, with Anil Kumble picking the highest (24) number of wickets in the series.
Sourav Ganguly Fighting For Harbhajan:
Not many people know that Harbhajan Singh or the ‘Bhajji’ was initially criticized for the bowling action he had and he was also called as an undisciplined cricketer of the team.
It was at this time that Sourav Ganguly took his side and fought for his selection.
Call it his foresightedness, the off-spinner did exceptionally well in 2001 Border-Gavaskar Trophy when Kumble went missing the series due to an injury.
Bhajji took 32 wickets in the series and also took the first-ever hat-trick by an Indian in tests. This was the incident that established Harbhajan as a spinner and he still credits ‘Dada’ for his career.
Yuvraj Singh- Ready To Die For Such a Captain
Not every player says this for every skipper and neither did Yuvraj Singh say this just like that.
Sourav Ganguly maintains a special place in the heart of Yuvraj and Ganguly is the person who helped him cement his place in the side
Have you seen Yuvraj Singh opening an inning? Well, you could mostly see him batting at number 5 or 6.
However, Ganguly experimented his batting position till he could establish himself at 5 and made him the Yuvraj of India who played a major role in winning the World Cup 2011.
Bringing Other Players in The Team:
May other players such as Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Mohd. Kaif, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni credit Sourav Ganguly for their place in the team.
Virender Sehwag says this quite often that Dada sacrificed his opening slot in the tests and made him a test cricketer.
Sourav Ganguly- The God of Off Side:
“On the off-side, first there is God and then it is Sourav Ganguly”, said Rahul Dravid, one of the most talented cricketers himself.
Ganguly was arguably the finest off-side player ever in the world and one of the most talented batsmen who amassed over 11000 runs in ODI cricket. His boundary-hitting capabilities were magnificent and at one period, he had the record of hitting the most number of sixes for India.
A More-Than-Handy Bowler:
Of course, you know this that Sourav Ganguly has a 100 wickets in ODIs and 32 in tests. He was certainly a handy bowler who could pick wickets with his medium-pace whenever the team required.
That Shirt-Waving Incident at the Lord’s:
As I aforementioned, aggression in the Indian cricket team existed long before Virat Kohli took his place and it was Sourav Ganguly who knew exactly about when to be aggressive.
How dare Andrew Flintoff took out his shirt at the Wankhede just after leveling a series?
Sourav Ganguly truly gave him and the English side back when Yuvraj Singh and Mohd. Kaif won for him the Natwest Series 2002. And this epic match saw the iconic shirt-waving incident on the Lord’s Cricket Ground Balcony which would ever remain fresh and clear in the minds of the Indian cricket fans.
You show aggression to the most aggressive cricketer ever and you be ready to get back from him in no time.
His Hilarious Comments:
As good as a cricketer he was, he was equally witty and sarcastic and made sure any of the comments against him turned in his favor with his extremely witty replies.
Some of the major ones are as follows:
Harsha Bhogle: “Have you seen the new ‘Mauka, mauka’ ad?”
Sourav Ganguly: “Yes I have seen that ad. And this ad will remain the same for the next 10 to 12 years because Pakistan will never beat India in the World Cup!”
David Lloyd: “The beauty of Indian batting is when someone like Tendulkar fails, someone else does it and this time it was Rahul Dravid.”
Sourav Ganguly: “This time? He has done it time and again. He has done it day in and day out for 15 years!”
Geoffrey Boycott: “You must mention your experience about taking your jersey off and flying it in the air at the Mecca of Cricket: Lord’s! Oh, you naughty boy!”
Ganguly: “One of your boys also took off his jersey here in Mumbai.”
Boycott: “Yeah, but Lord’s is the Mecca of cricket.”
Ganguly: “Lord’s is your Mecca, and Wankhede is ours!”
Looking at the Tendulkar mania around in Kolkata which was prepared to give Sachin an ideal farewell in his penultimate match in the city, Harsha Bhogle asked Dada: “Do you think Sachin will be more popular than you in that Kolkata Test match?”
Ganguly: “Yes, but only for those five days!”
Nasser Hussain: “When can I see India playing in a football World Cup?”
Harsha Bhogle: “It’s better not to participate rather than getting knocked out in the first round.”
Sourav Ganguly: “If India had played World Cup football for 50 years, then they would have qualified one or two times for the finals — unlike England!”
It was a match between India and England at Perth and Ganguly was with Harsha Bhogle and Sunil Gavaskar in the commentary box
Sunil Gavaskar: “The attendance today is 7653.”
Sourav Ganguly: “We have that attendance in Durga Puja!”
Rahul Dravid: “Sanjay Manjrekar made a really good point in the commentary box. If Ganguly had been a yard quicker and just a little bit fitter, he would have been a match-winner.”
Sourav Ganguly: “I wish I was Prime Minister of India. I could have done a whole lot of things.”
Rajdeep Sardesai: “Does Greg Chappell owe an apology to Indian cricket? To Sachin Tendulkar, to Sourav Ganguly, to Dravid?”
Sourav Ganguly: “He can call up Tendulkar or Dravid. But he dare not dial my number. If he is hearing this on TV, he dare not call Sourav Ganguly.”
Ravi: “In Eden Gardens shouldn’t there be a Sourav Dada Ganguly Stand?”
Dada smiled and replied: “The Entire Ground Belongs to me, Ravi.”
Once Nasser Hussain acknowledged Dada, “He is painfully arrogant, and that’s the best thing happened to Indian cricket. Without him, Indian cricket would have been the same old giants getting bullied by a 5th-grade student from Australia.”
“When I used to be the captain of India, many people literally hated me for being overly expressive.
Once I retired, the same people used to say COME BACK DADA, WE MISS YOU. The same thing will happen in the case of MS Dhoni.
The ones who criticize him right now will understand his importance once he retires.”
12 (The Epic):
Michael Clarke: All I see is a blue T-Shirt and Indian flags all around the stands and not much green color.
Sourav Ganguly: Yeah! Costly tickets maybe.
So as a batsman, as a bowler, as a skipper, as an aggressor or as a commentator, he did some really wonderful job and served cricket like no other person.
And no wonder, you can get a distinct individual expert in a trait, but to get a combo of all in one is really impossible.
Sourav Ganguly or ‘Dada’ is one of a kind you cannot get another one ever.
And please share this if you really agree with what I wrote.