It had been 28 years, and there was no greater joy said the captain of the Indian Cricket team from the 1983 World Cup triumph, Kapil Dev. It was as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Kris Srikkanth, who was also on the panel, when Kapil Dev broke into tears on a live news channel only moments after Team India lifted the 2011 Cricket World Cup, kept mute while his Ex-captain let emotions take care of conveying the message he wanted to. He looked at that third person on the panel, who was demurely seated in Kolkata- watching this outbreak and Kapil Dev thanked this man with all his heart. He said something that many Indian fans may have forgotten in that moment of glory and carnival style atmosphere. He said and I quote “Thank you, Dada. This wouldn’t have been possible without you. You are the man who changed Indian Cricket and made this possible. Thank you” I searched for better tributes to this great man named Sourav Ganguly but none fitted the bill when put up against this incident. The Bengal Tiger, Dada, Arguably the greatest Indian Captain of All-time, put up a million appreciative adjectives but they might not do justice to the underrated greatness of this man. Indian cricket was in a turmoil state when Dada took over the captaincy. His real legacy doesn’t lie in only his great captaincy record or his fan following, it lies in the way he steadied the ship that was reeling under the cloud of the match-fixing controversy. He then became the architect of a strong Indian team. He faced many upheavals, but he fought back hard to prove his detractors wrong. Sourav Ganguly’s arrival marked the beginning of an unparalleled hysteria. Having made his ODI debut in 1992 against West Indies in Australia, unsuccessfully I must add, he was dropped from the squad after the series and had to wait for 4 long years to get a second bite at the cherry and bite he did. He made his return at the Mecca of Cricket, The Lords Cricket Stadium. He announced his arrival with a knock full off dazzling strokes through the off-side – which would go on to become his trademarks over the years scoring a massive 131 on test debut against the English side on their soil. He never looked back after that. Ganguly’s test debut 131 vs England
Ganguly With Sachin Tendulkar, he had the best opening partner one could wish for and the Ganguly-Tendulkar pairing forged an awesome opening partnership that dominated cricket for years. I can go on for another 2-3 hours describing how fantastic this opening pair was or how they broke numerous records or even carry on with Ganguly’s tremendous stats and figures which cement his position as one of India’s finest players ever to grace this game but we’ll keep that short. There’s so much more that Ganguly has contributed to Indian cricket that it’d be unfair to just highlight numbers from his career. Dada was not just statistics but the spirit and atmosphere that he
Ganguly turned an Indian side which was highly dependent on a certain Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar for most part of the 1990’s into a cohesive team having the blend of exuberant youth and experience of seniors. He put out a strong message that India is no longer a hushed bunch of players, they had turned into roaring tigers now. Amidst the Australian dominance that ruled the cricketing world, Dada wasn’t scared to stand up to them or any other side for that matter. A perfect example of this would be the Natwest-Series of 2002 when his shirtless celebration with the ‘not-so-clean’ words from the Lords pavilion proved that he was as fearless and aggressive as his nickname ‘The Bengal Tiger’ and the emotions did come with a pinch of overdose but it was totally worth it. Barring the extraordinarily brilliant Aussie side that won the 2002 World Cup, India was the best team in the tournament. He also made sure that India lose the tag of ‘chokers on foreign soil’ by winning test series overseas too. Natwest 2002 final celebration
The dark phase of Dada’s career was certainly during the Greg Chappell era where a storm pushed Ganguly out of the Indian squad. But if there’s one thing you are certain to get from true champions, it is their ‘Never Say Die’ attitude. Ganguly turned into, what some label as, the real life version of Rocky Balboa – fighting it out on the domestic circuit, working doubly hard in the nets of Eden Garden and finally proving all those detractors wrong and coming a comeback to the Indian Squad. A maiden test double-century awaited Dada on his return against arch nemesis Pakistan and also a huge contribution in India’s test series win over the Australians in 2008.
There’s a beautiful line which said – Ganguly is the best captain of Indian cricket team and Dhoni is the captain of the best Indian cricket team. Though it’s arguable but many people do believe so and I’m one of them. To revive Indian cricket, to put India right up there with the close-to-invincible Aussies and even beating them several times, injecting the confidence that we can win overseas and making the best of the resources he had at his disposal, that’s some doing. We love you Dada, for everything you have done for Indian cricket and the happiness you have spread. Thank you so much.