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Revered captain Ganguly - Partab Ramchand Column
by Partab Ramchand
Nov 18, 2008
The most successful Indian leader. The man who changed the image of the Indian captain. The greatest left-handed batsman in the history of Indian cricket. What will be Sourav Ganguly’s most enduring legacy to the game in this country?

Actually why not all three? `Dada’ was in fact quite a complex character easily moved to anger or happiness, a strange combination of fire and ice. As batsman and leader he carved out a niche all his own and takes his place among the commanding personalities of Indian cricket.

Naturally there had to be ups and downs over an international career that lasted almost 17 years. But the positives far outweighed the negatives and somehow the steep rise and fall as indicated in his career graph gives Ganguly a larger than life image. His career would no doubt make for a successful TV serial.

As a batsman he fitted in perfectly in the most lustrous middle order in recent times. Coming in to build upon a good start or to script a rescue act Ganguly did it with panache. He couldn’t do it any other way being a Royal Bengal Tiger. His princely background, his palatial bungalow in central Kolkata – was it 21 rooms and 22 cars or the other way around – brought back memories of Indian cricket’s formative years when the princes promoted the game. And the way Ganguly played his cricket whether playing the lofted shot with relish or caressing the ball to the boundary on the off side it was nothing short of being regal. His batting was the perfect blend of power and elegance, style and substance.

The greatest left-handed batsman in Indian cricket? Without a shadow of a doubt. A cursory glance at the list of outstanding batsman will convey that all of them have been right-handers. The list would include CK Nayudu, Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare, Vijay Manjrekar, Polly Umrigar, MAK Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath, Dilip Vengsarkar, Md Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag and as one can see there is not a left-hander among them. Ganguly’s place in Indian cricket is thus secure and unchallenged.

Despite all this I would venture to guess that in any future discussion about Ganguly’s legacy to Indian cricket his captaincy would figure more than his batting. And at this stage I am reminded of a little incident that took place at Dhaka in November 2000. Watching Ganguly talking to reporters on the eve of the inaugural Test against Bangladesh noted cricket writer Rajan Bala nudged me and asked, ``well, did you ever think that one day you would see Ganguly captain India in a Test match.’’ He gave a wry smile as he asked this, for he knew what my answer would be. Viewed from any angle, Ganguly’s elevation to the Indian captaincy must be one of the astonishingly unexpected success stories in Indian cricket. Indeed almost till the point when he was appointed captain, there was never any certainty that he would get to occupy the most prestigious post in Indian sport.

And yet the Prince of Kolkata became the undisputed monarch of Indian cricket! And for the next five years as every cricket fan knows by now the Indian team in his charge went from strength to strength, notching up one notable victory after another, happily acquired the habit of winning consistently away from home and emerged as formidable opponents. Much of the credit went to Ganguly for his shrewd, tough, uncompromising leadership style. He led with a lot of `josh’ and was the veritable Bengal tiger who was not afraid to make his roar heard loud and clear. He wore his passion on his sleeve and made his intentions clear. ``Don’t try and put one over me. Don’t mess with me. You will be sorry,’’ was the gist of the message. This was something new for an Indian captain. For long, the image of the Indian captain had been the obliging, only too ready to please type. Ganguly changed this prototype. Moreover he spoke out on behalf of his teammates and encouraged the young talent at his disposal, conveying the message across to them not to get overawed by reputations. If anything his outstanding leadership is reflected in the figures – 21 victories against 13 defeats in 49 Tests as captain.

The final verdict? I would venture to guess that while Ganguly the batsman will be remembered with affection by future generations Ganguly the captain will be respected, even revered.
 
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