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A cricketer reborn!
by Partab Ramchand
Dec 12, 2007
About two years ago his cricketing obituary was written. Experts and critics, former cricketers and the man in the street said he was finished, that he would never again play for India. Today Sourav Ganguly is a cricketer reborn. He has not only made a comeback into both the ODI squad and the Test team but is also batting with grit and a clenching spirit not seen before.

Gone is the old flamboyance, the swashbuckling left-hander who pulverized the Sri Lankan attack at Taunton in the 1999 World Cup in the course of one of the most brutal attacks ever carried out by an Indian batsman. In its place one can clearly see Ganguly today as the personification of steely determination. It is all there in the eyes, in the positive body language and in his steadfast defence. No, he has not converted himself into Geoff Boycott. The cultured strokes particularly those on the off side are very much in evidence. He still puts the bad ball away with relish, still plays the ethereal drives, the rasping cuts and the power packed pulls. Moreover as an elder statesman he is regarded with a lot of respect much as he commanded during his tenure as India’s most successful captain.

Yes, you’ve got to have the highest respect for the man whose comeback ranks right up there with the many made by `Comeback King’ Mohinder Amarnath. As he said in a recent interview ``I don’t have an issue with being left out, that’s part of the game but the circumstances and the manner in which I was dropped just weren’t right.’’ Even those who said his time was up agreed with this view. After all if one is dropped on cricketing grounds it is understandable. But in Ganguly’s case it was a well publicized public spat with the then coach Greg Chappell that led to his being dropped.

One expected the fiery Ganguly to don the role of a martyr. But to his credit he took it all in his stride. His fans notably in Kolkata protested on his behalf. But Ganguly took the unfair treatment like a man and emerged much the better for it. The forced exile made him more determined to prove the point that he was far from finished and that he was still good enough to play for India. Many people said he should retire, that he had achieved everything, played for the team for eleven years, been captain for five and so what else did he want to get out of the game. But deep inside Ganguly felt he still had it in him to play at the highest level and he felt his career would be incomplete if he simply gave up then.

These days the Indian superstars hardly play domestic cricket. Ganguly instead of sitting back and moping opted for the long, hard road. He decided he would let his bat do the talking. He played around the domestic circuit, made runs and big scores as handsomely as only he could and kept himself in the public eye the right and proper way. He also spent time analyzing his batting and ironing out the weaknesses. As the adage goes you can’t keep a good man down. And about a year ago Ganguly was back where to be candid he always belonged. He now took a little longer over his runs and his wicket really had to be earned. It was like a man who loses his money and when he gets it back is more careful with it. But this also meant that he was an invaluable member of the side for he was frequently playing the crisis role or anchor role to perfection.

Chappell was still the Indian coach but Ganguly banished petty thoughts from his mind and concentrated on his batting. He was just happy to be back, happy to contribute to his team’s cause and was devastated like everyone else when India made their shock first round exit in the World Cup in the Caribbean particularly after he had made sizeable contributions in two matches. Again in the course of 2007 he was under tremendous pressure to perform particularly with the young brigade making their presence felt. This pressure intensified in the wake of the Twenty20 World Cup triumph.

The Ganguly of old might have given in, succumbed to pressure, failed or even announced his retirement. But this was the new Ganguly and he met this challenge headlong. His role in ODIs had changed a bit for he had taken over the anchor role while of course never getting the bad ball go unpunished or giving the bowlers the necessary charge when the situation demanded. But it was in the Tests that his transformation from a dasher to an invaluable contributor was most emphatic. He is currently India’s leading run getter in Tests this year with over 1000 runs and at 35 his hunger for success had not diminished one bit. Indeed in his new avatar he is boyishly enthusiastic about the game and has squashed all speculation about retirement saying that he intends to play next year. And why not 2009 too? After all if anything he is going from strength to strength if his maiden Test double century against Pakistan at Bangalore and the Man of the Series award are any indication.

The Melbourne Test against Australia later this month will be Ganguly’s 100th. Not bad for a player whose career was thought to be over after 80-odd Tests. His career average hovering around the 40 mark is now over 43. Recently he just crossed the 6000-run mark in Tests even as he became only the third cricketer to score 10,000 runs and take 100 wickets in ODIs. Not bad for someone who had his cricketing obituary written about two years ago.

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