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He's Back!
by Gulu Ezekiel
Dec 01, 2006
There were large dollops of both symbolism and poignancy on display at the Feroze Shah Kotla ground in the Capital when the team for the Test series for South Africa was announced on Thursday afternoon.

The Delhi and Uttar Pradesh squads were at the nets in the morning on the eve of their Ranji Trophy Super League clash and there were at least four players from both sides who must have had butterflies in their stomachs, knowing they were in the reckoning.

Finally it was Punjab medium-pacer VRV Singh who got the nod ahead of Delhi's Ashish Nehra and RP Singh of UP.

Nehra, who picked up just one wicket in the opening tie against Tamil Nadu at the same ground last week, was out on the ground just briefly in the morning. When asked where he had gone after that, one team official said tongue-in-cheek: "He is in the pavilion, busy praying".

Nehra's prayers were not answered this afternoon but that was not the case for another Delhi player, opener Gautam Gambhir.

It was state-mate Akash Chopra who narrowly lost out to Gambhir for the third opener's slot and this led to a tense atmosphere in the Delhi dressing room where the players were having lunch when the announcement was made just yards away in one of the shabbier rooms of the DDCA.

That certainly made for poignant scenes. But the symbolism came in the form of former national selector and Bengal captain Sambaran Banerjee who is here in the capacity of Match Referee for Friday's tie.
A loud gasp and a smattering of applause as well--rose from the massed ranks of the city's journalists as soon as Ganguly's name was announced by BCCI Secretary and Selection Committee convener Niranjan Shah in the overflowing hall.

Banerjee, pacing the corridor outside the team dressing rooms not far away, had reason to be delighted. He was after all instrumental as captain for getting the teenage Sourav in to the Bengal team for the final against Delhi in March 1990, at the expense of elder brother Snehashis.

A year later Sourav had been chosen for the national side for Australia in 1991-92. But the negative fallout of that tour meant he would find himself in the wilderness for another four years.

It was in Delhi in April 1996 that Banerjee would once more play a pivotal part in Ganguly's career, helping to bring him back controversially for the tour of England in 1996 in his role as the national selector from East Zone. The rest of course is Indian cricket history.

Today when asked for his reaction to Ganguly's latest comeback, Banerjee was non-committal. "It's OK", he said, shrugging his shoulders.

There was no mistaking his elation however with his cell-phone stuck to his ear, continuously fielding calls from Kolkata. One comment this correspondent picked up: "The fireworks celebrating on the streets of Kolkata are going as high as the bounce of the ball on the pitches of South Africa".

It remains to be seen now how Ganguly copes with that bounce.
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