If I had been writing about Sachin Tendulkar again and again, I was not happy!!! Not that I was relenting my decision to do so, but I was missing writing about my most favourite crickter – Saurav Ganguly – The God of Offside!!!
It was fortunate for game of cricket that a certain young Saurav Ganguly inspired by his elder brother took an interest in cricket over football and began his career in the cricket since his teenage. But his first step in the domestic team was never imagined to be so harsh, as he was selected to play in place of his brother from whom he learnt the sports. From here, he was able to make a beginning in international arena in 1991 by just playing a single one day match and thereafter being dropped.
“What is patience and determination?”, Saurav Ganguly asked the youngsters who aspire to play for the nation; as he was once again picked up in 1996-97. Most of the batsmen can only dream of making mark in the Mecca of cricket-Lords in England, but for him, dreams were meant to be fulfilled. With a wonderful century, Saurav joined the prestigious list of rare players who scored a century in their Debut Test Match. It was the highest score made by any batsmen in his test debut at Lords. What was being realized was not only his dream, but also his passion to deliver his best. All this shows how his hard work enabled him to be a part of international cricket team.
He made record of becoming Man of the Match for four consecutive times in ODI series against Australia in 1997. Another responsibility was waiting for him, when after a match-fixing scandal; Saurav Ganguly was handed over the captainship of the team. Under his captaincy both in ODIs and Test matches, he provided the team with victories against the best- both at home and abroad. He also achieved the record of making 9000 runs in Test matches at the fastest rate in January 2004. He is the first Indian to score an ODI century against Australia in Australia. Dada is the highest ODI runs scorer in the world (in a calendar year) in 1997, 1999 and 2000.
If controversy with Greg Chappell had not taken place, we would not have had the opportunity to understand his “Come-back spirit”. During those days in 10 months, an advertisement of cold drink depicted his will and motivation to again play for his nation. He came back with a bang and won the Castrol Asian cricketer of the Year Award in 2007. He scored his maiden double century in the first innings of the third and final Test match at Bangalore. He became Man of the Match in that match and Man of the Series in against Pakistan in December 2007.
Sanath Jayasuriya, after Ganguly’s comeback, remarked that he has shown with class and experience that age need not to be a barrier to success. His contemporary Rahul Dravid gave him the title of ‘God of the offside’. As they say, ‘first there was god himself, then Saurav Ganguly‘ and then offside. Sachin Tendulkar, who was at one point of time his captain, characterized him as a ‘secret weapon’ in September 1997. His all round performance has at every time given him what he deserved. He has been man of the series in Test matches for 6 times and in the ODIs for 2 times.
We can never forget how he showed confidence in the young players taking the Indian cricket team to success and by making an extrovert point by flying his shirt on defeating England Natwest Trophy, 2002; exuberating a non-defeatist attitude. We must salute his efforts every time we hear about him.
On November 11, 2000 he made debut as a captain and after eight long years he has said goodbye to the international game.
Dada, Hats Off! ooops!!! shirts off!!!!!