Saturday, February 12, 2011

There is only one Dada

It is difficult for me to write about Sourav Ganguly. It gets very personal, very emotional and hard to string together coherent sentences.

Sourav Ganguly divides opinion among cricket fans like no one else. Some love him and some hate him. But very few could ever ignore him. Till the IPL 4 auctions happened and no one made a bid for him.

I had tried to write something about him since then, made a few attempts and then gave up. And then I thought why not put down some interesting things written about him by the writers that I admire and so cricinfo archives provided me the place to go and get the "good stuff". This blog is more about that "good stuff" and less from me.

When I think about it, his early years were like one of those beautiful elegant cover drives. There was a certain sense of freshness that he brought to the crease - an aesthetically pleasing left hander - the first that I had seen in the Indian team. Those days he was, as Rahul Dravid famously quipped, the "GOD of the off side".

Then came the captaincy phase - years I would described best by his dance down the crease lifting spinners out of the ground. Quite simply a triumph.

And then his latter years - the trials and tribulations and the comeback - best portrayed by the shot which he played quite often in ODIs - charging and making room on the leg side against the fast bowlers - flaying them over the 30 yard circle for a four. A shot of defiance.

How he batted on ODIs  is described in a beautiful but simple way by the genius Sidvee here in this random match report I picked where he made a modest 59. There is a touch of nostalgia about it as well, considering that this is written in 2007:
Ganguly comes with his tailor-made methods, backing away, taking his right leg out of the way and connecting with awesome timing. It is these violent, manic innings that suit him best. Streaky one moment, controlled the next. That is the Ganguly we knew, the one who was quite an unstoppable batsman in his prime.

Dileep Premachandran, one of the best out there wrote this recently No one divides like Ganguly
Apart from Sachin Tendulkar, no other Indian cricketer has inspired such devotion. Even after he quit the Test arena, with an innings of 85 and a first-ball duck, "Dada" would be lavished with admiration wherever he went. I've been at IPL games in Mohali and Bangalore where other opposition players would be booed and jeered. But for the man perceived as Indian cricket's lionheart, there was only adoration.

The well respected Australian Peter Roebuck wrote this article The many sides of Sourav on Ganguly's retirement:
It has been an astonishing career. Some men prefer to follow a predictable path and their stories tell of a slow rise to the top and an equally measured decline. To that end instinct is subdued, contention avoided and risk reduced. That has been altogether too dull for Ganguly. Throughout he has toyed with his fate, tempting it to turn its back on him so that once again he could surprise the world with a stunning restoration. Something in him rebelled against the mundane and the sensible. He needed his life to be full of disasters and rescues, and comebacks and mistakes and memorable moments. To hell with the prosaic. At heart he is a cavalier, albeit of mischievous persuasion.

The wonderful Rahul Bhattacharya, cricket writer extraordinaire (and a Bong) wrote the following as the first paragraph in this wonderful article The Heart of the Matter:
At some stage, hard to say when, Sourav Ganguly no longer remained a cricketer and turned into a folk hero and a folk villain. Averages and the rest came into it but with Ganguly things became a matter of convictions of the soul. Anything he did or did not do could provoke an outcry. Everything that was done to him or not done to him could provoke an outcry. Ganguly issues took the form of movements. In many ways he is the cricketer-phenomenon in India's modern pop culture

It really sums up almost everything I would want to say about him, but with far greater beauty than I can ever come up with.

There is this great mystery in my mind as to how good a captain he really was. Was he truly instrumental, single-handedly responsible for making India an overseas test winning, aggressive outfit ? Or was he simply lucky to be the captain of side which had God, The Wall, VVS, Sehwag, Kumble etc. I don't think it is quite possible to objectively segregate the collective contribution of these legends and the impact of Ganguly's leadership, but I will say this. Being the captain of a cricket team in these days of intense media scrutiny, match referees, oppositions who sledge and involve in gamesmanship et al is not an easy job. My belief is that as a captain of the Indian team, Dada allowed the more talented amongst his team-mates to get on with their games, concentrate on their individual contributions and make the most of their considerable talent and skills, while taking the flak of the opposition and dealing with those who threw the rule book at him. He did the dirty work and the others flourished around him, with him.

[Quick Edit: This tribute by Greatbong is a must read as well: His Last Bow ]
All this is fine but how does one end without mentioning the most memorable of Ganguly moments. The moment which Sidvee (again :D) recalls so vividly (literally) here: Ganguly takes his shirt off . Here's a few lines from that to end on a happy note:

I remember it vividly. Mum was woken from her sleep, dad was going ballistic in his rocking chair, and I was prancing between hall, kitchen and mid-air. All of a sudden, one glance at the television and there was Sourav Ganguly baring his torso, swinging his India shirt, hurling invective, making quite a spectacle of himself. ...

An extraordinary match got its perfect climax - hero extracting revenge and indulging in a war dance. The Wankhede and Lord's would be treated equally. We needed no further vindication that this Indian team was playing an inspired brand of cricket, not only with bat and ball but also with the head, and that it would wear its heart on its sleeve...

I think it is fair to say, Indian cricket was changed that day. And for the better.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the post!
    As Dada's ardent fan this post was a treat! :) :D


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