Before India had even landed Down Under, daggers had been drawn. Experts and fans claimed it would be a one sided affair as they predicted the hosts to blow the men from the subcontinent. It took a Sourav Ganguly to change the notion. A catalyst to the famous Border-Gavaskar winning series, a certain Bengali had captured the imagination of the Gabba crowd that savoured the eventful afternoon. As 61/0 became 62/3 in a matter of two overs, the Indian team’s backs were against the wall and fears of yet another follow-on loomed large. The pitch was beginning to look like Perth’s 22 yards in disguise. Jason Gillespie had just begun to hit his stride, mustering two wickets from his eight overs giving away just five runs in the process. Runs had dried up like a shower in the Sahara Desert. In walked a certain left hander who was well known for his weakness towards the short ball. I still remember how the evergreen Tony Grieg had described his arrival from the dressing room, “In walks Sourav Ganguly and you better believe he has a working over.” The Aussie skipper, Steve Waugh, welcomed him with four slips, a gully and a forward short leg in a packed offside field with the combination of the deadly trio of Bracken, Gillespie and Bichel at his disposal. A tentative edge through the slips showed signs of vulnerability in the very first ball.
What followed was poetry in motion, so here we present Sourav Ganguly’s ball by ball innings of 144 vs Australia at Brisbane, Gabba
His elegant cover drives, immaculate square cuts, calculated lofts and stupendous change in gear whenever required ranks it as one of those innings that you can’t stop watching. The swagger and stylish elegance coupled with free flowing rhythm of tiring the bowlers was a true spectacle. His determination showed the cricket fraternity how to conquer the Australian wave at Brisbane an he did it with nonchalance. It set the tone for the remainder of the series. An innings that lasted a little less than five hours, studded with eighteen hits to the rope in a masterful 144 out of 196 balls, was one of the best ever knocks played by an Indian overseas. The hype around this southpaw and expectations from all his fans never seemed like a pressure as he bludgeoned the Aussie attack that left even Steve Waugh in awe. Suddenly, his critics were vanquished. Much was said about his batting before the series with many critics stating that form had deserted the “Prince of Kolkata”, and it was perhaps the right time to give up the captaincy following the magnificent World Cup run in the same year of 2003. Some said he would fail miserably, some questioned his attitude, some pointed he was done and nothing was left in him.