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Ganguly's Best... - Chetan Narula Column
by Chetan Narula
Sep 18, 2008
This is one comeback that Sourav Ganguly will find hard to make, even by his standards. But then again, he is not one to take things lying low, so expect to see him turning up for Bengal in the Ranji matches and try his level best to regain his place in the side. Till then, let us remember what we are going to miss.

131 vs England, 1996 - It just doesn't get better than a debut ton at Lord's. India had lost the first Test by 8 wickets, and with Manjrekar injured, the visitors were staring down the barrel. And at this opportune moment, the 'God of the off-side' took centre-stage with a sweetly timed century. He followed it up with 136 in the next Test at Nottingham, helping India to draw the last two Tests, and with 315 runs at 105.00, the second highest run-getter after Sachin Tendulkar, he won the man-of-the-series award in his very first Test series.

5 for 16 vs Pakistan, 1997 - For the last time, Ganguly isn't an all rounder! He is a batsman who sometimes bowls, that too military-medium stuff really, and effective mostly when the ball is swinging like a yo-yo. And thus, aided by fabulous conditions for swing bowling, a murky day, dark cloud cover, green top wicket and some careless Pakistani batsmen, the southpaw ran through the opposition batting line-up. And from then on, it really became his series as he scored 222 runs with two fifties and 15 wickets. Another man-of-the-series performance!

124 vs Pakistan, 1998 - If there was one performance that brought out his never-say-die spirit, this was it. Chasing a world record 315 against arch rivals Pakistan in dying light at Dhaka, Sourav, alongwith Sachin, first took the new ball bowlers to the cleaners and then strung up a vital 3rd wicket partnership with Robin Singh. When India lost quick wickets, again, all seemed lost. With visibility ridiculously low, Ganguly refused to leave the pitch and continued batting, till he was finally out for 124. In the end, Hrishikesh Kanitkar held his nerve to pull off a famous victory.

183 vs Sri Lanka, 1999 - It was a bad day to be a Sri Lankan on a cricket field. India were staring at exit from the World Cup after just one win out of three matches and this was a must win game for them. Ganguly and Dravid began the rescue act after Sadagopan Ramesh left early, and the duo was again in command in the familiar English conditions. Punishing even the best of deliveries, they put on 318 for the 2nd wicket as Ganguly strode on to a career best score including 17 fours and 7 sixes. One of those sixes was hit so hard that it sailed right out of the County Ground, Taunton. Since the ball could not be retrieved, it was presumed to have been hit into the stream flowing next to the stadium.

141* vs South Africa, 2000 - The Champions Trophy in Kenya, or the ICC Knock-Out as it was called then, will always be remembered for the firebrand captaincy that Ganguly first brought to the team. Zaheer and Yuvraj made their debuts here, Australia were handed a first round shock, and then it was the turn of the Proteas. Dada himself was on fire, leading the run-charts with two consecutive hundreds in the semis and the finals. Although India lost the final, thanks to Chris Cairns' assault, this particular innings of 141, complete with quick singles, eleven hits to the fence and six over it, was instrumental in heralding Ganguly as one of the truly great opening batsmen in the ODI game.

90* vs Sri Lanka, 2001 - Now, this is one of his finest Test innings even though it wasn't a ton. Up until then, it was also his best 'captain's knock'. With Sachin missing out on the tour due to injury, no Laxman either and the first Test lost, India arrived at Kandy battling a series loss. Thanks to seamer friendly conditions, Zaheer Khan and Venkatesh Prasad took 14 wickets between them to set India a target of 264. It was a tough ask considering the middle order hinged solely on Dravid and Ganguly. But they didn't disappoint, stringing a 91-run partnership and the captain saw his side to victory.

128 vs England, 2002 - Diwali came early that English summer! The series was finely poised as England won the first test at Lord's comfortably, while India fought back to draw the second at Nottingham. Ganguly got a ninety there as well, but it was at Leeds that the stage got meticulously set for a famous Indian victory. Batting first on a treacherous track, Dravid continued his rich vein of form, seeing off the first day with yet another ton. The second day Sachin and Sourav came to the party with a 249 run fest, smacking the ball to all parts of the ground, refusing to go off even when the lights dimmed. India ran up a huge 628 and needless to say, won by an innings to spare.

111* vs Kenya, 2003 - Well, it was Kenya many might say. But the truth is that the semis of a World Cup are a pressure situation against any team and the wicket was indeed fiendishly slow, the outfield sluggish. Together with Sachin, he put the match beyond the grasp of the shock semi-finalists and any thoughts of an upset were soon disdainfully waved away. The more important point is that it was his last ODI ton for five years now, and since he is already out of the reckoning for that team, it might well have been his last ever.

144 vs Australia, 2003 - Nobody in India gave the team a shot at troubling the Aussies inspite of the 2001 upset, and Justin Langer rubbed it in when Australia were 262 for 2 after Day One of the first test. The series was not over though, like some local newspapers suggested, Zaheer picked up five to keep India fighting. Soon India were struggling instead, at 4 for 127.

Fighting self-doubt against the short pitched stuff as well as hostile seaming conditions, the 'Bengal Tiger' came out roaring his loudest and audiences the world over were treated to a magically bold innings from the Indian captain, as he pierced the field with his immaculate shot selection. It was as if the clock was wound back to 1996 Lord's, and thus without an iota of doubt, it remains his best knock ever.

239 vs Pakistan, 2007 - His last Test ton came against the traditional arch rivals at Bangalore and it was well timed too. India were 4 for 61 when he came together with Yuvraj, as the two bludgeoned the Pakistani attack for 300 runs. Even as his partner fell, Dada kept going to score his maiden double hundred in Test cricket, and for the first time in his career, crossed the 500-runs mark in a Test series.

Obviously then, given all his firecracker antics at the crease over the years, we will miss him when the Test team is finally announced for the India-Australia series this October. Even though he is not yet out of contention, the selectors have indeed made their mind known to the world, and Dada fans alike.
 
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