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Sourav Ganguly: The Royal Bengal Tiger
by Partab Ramchand
Dec 04, 2008
You may not like someone on a personal level but you have to give him credit where it is due. Shane Warne has failed in his attempt to run down Sourav Ganguly,s captaincy in his book "Shane Warne's century" while admitting that "he might not be my cup of tea as a bloke."

You can even find fault with him as a batsman an exercise which Warne almost eagerly indulges in. Everyone is aware of his discomfort with short pitched deliveries and Warne is quick to drive home that point. On the other side of the spectrum was the kind of strokes on the off side that only Ganguly could play but Warne of course doesn't emphasize that. Overall, Ganguly played 113 Tests, scored 7212 runs at an average of 42 with 16 hundreds and a highest score of 239 and these are not figures that should be scoffed at.

Of course one need not even bother to quote his ODI figures for he was always one of the leading batsmen in the shorter version of the game.

While admitting that Ganguly is "a feisty sort of character, not short of self confidence or unaware of his standing in Indian life" Warne doubts his standing as one of the greatest -ever Indian captains. "They won more games under him than anyone else so I guess the statistics back that up. Personally I am not so sure," says Warne while grudgingly adding that "what he did for Indian cricket has to be respected."

Warne bases his thesis of Ganguly not being a great captain on the ground that he had some outstanding players in the team. ''Do you need to be a great leader to win games with Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble in the ranks? Tactically he was not among the best leaders I came up against and his management skills left a bit to be desired," he says.

Warne is perhaps unaware of a few aspects of Indian cricket. Great players have king-sized egos and it needs a special leader to unite them and keep them focused on the chief objective of winning matches. This is one of the things that Ganguly achieved. Also Warne is obviously unaware of the fact that early in his tenure as captain Ganguly did not have the services of Tendulkar, Laxman, Kumble and Javagal Srinath for an extended period.

Most important Ganguly changed the image of the Indian captain. He was certainly no softie like Tendulkar or pliable as Azhar. He was the veritable Bengal tiger who was not afraid to make his roar heard loud and clear. He 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. Very soon in his captaincy it was obvious that Ganguly was going to change this prototype and this in fact is his lasting legacy to Indian cricket.

Warne perhaps is still feeling the pain of the loss in 2001 when India under Ganguly came from one down to win the three-Test series in arguably Indian cricket's greatest triumph in a home contest. The Aussies were on the rampage winning 16 Tests in a row before India turned the tables with a memorable victory at Kolkata before clinching the series with a two-wicket victory at Chennai. For all the contributions made by Laxman, Dravid, Tendulkar and Harbhajan by way of runs and wickets, there was little doubt that Ganguly deserved a lot of credit for his no-nonsense captaincy.

For once, the Australians, who through the years had become past masters in the art of aggression, bustling tactics and sledging, found that they were getting it as good as they gave. They were at the receiving end in this tactical game and didn't like it. Ganguly relentlessly applied the screws, took on Steve Waugh off the field in a war of words and the Australians, under pressure buckled, despite all the big names on the resume. 'Force will be met with force,' could well have been the Indian captain's motto.

Throughout his five-year tenure Ganguly had the happy knack of rallying his team around him. He backed youngsters, encouraged them to perform with the kind of 'josh' he showed on the field - and off. Ganguly wore his passion for Indian cricket on his sleeve though of course sometimes his emotions went overboard. He inculcated a sense of self-belief in his team members with the result that the Indians started winning matches abroad with regularity.

The vastly improved showing was not just confined to Tests but also limited overs cricket - the NatWest Trophy triumph in 2002, finalists in the ICC Knockout tournament at Nairobi in 2000, joint champions with Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy in 2002, finalists in the World Cup in South Africa in 2003.

The achievements are just too many to be shrugged off. By far the most successful Indian captain Ganguly led the country in 49 Tests, winning a record 21. Eleven of the victories were notched up abroad. Say and write what you want Shane. You will not be able to erase Ganguly's achievements from the record books and more important from the hearts and minds of cricket lovers.

 
More Views by Partab Ramchand
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