June 20 holds a very special place in Indian cricket history. The day in 1996 witnessed two of the greatest Indian batsmen- Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid making their debut at the historical Lords ground. Alan Mullally, who played for England in that match has revealed an interesting incident of sledging from that match.
Mullally, who played 19 Test and 50 one-day matches for England , said to Bengali daily Anandabajar Patrika how he still remembers the sight of Ganguly’s angry stares and how a young Ganguly managed to shut up even the senior Alec Stewart.
It was a typical overcast day at Lord’s and India was trailing by 344 runs. Pressure increased on the Indian team when they lost their first wicket with only 25 on the board. Then came Ganguly at No 3 in his debut Test innings. In order to increase the pressure on the debutant, English captain Michael Atherton asked his fielders to close around Ganguly.
Mullally recalled that as he was getting ready to bowl to Ganguly, Dominic Cork was laughing at long off at the prospect of getting another easy Indian wicket before lunch.
English wicket-keeper Alec Stewart made an intentional rude comment : “Let’s give this boy a greeting! So what if it hits his face! I know you can do it, Alan.”
Junior cricketers being welcomed by harsh words was acceptable those days. Little did Stewart know that Ganguly was a different breed.
The southpaw gave a fitting reply to the English wicketkeeper by saying: “Hello Mr. Stewart. You are a very respected cricketer. Now please keep quiet and let me make my debut.”
Mullally said that the reply from Ganguly shocked Stewart and his confidence also raised some doubts in the bowlers’ minds as well.
It could be seen from the very first ball that Ganguly was determined to get a big score as he showed tremendous resolve and cautiousness to help India take a sizeable lead. Ganguly seemed to be in no trouble facing the English seamers as he played one drive after another through the off-side. He even brought up his fifty playing one of his trademark cover drives. He was so elegant with his shots on the off-side that it led Dravid, another debutant who scored 95 in that match, to quote in the later years- “First there is God on the off-side, then there is Ganguly.”
Mullally,47, further said, “My name is connected to Sourav’s in a strange way. The scoreboard had said in that match – SC Ganguly bowled Alan Mullally 131. That was a milestone in my career as well. That match had seen the rise of Sourav and Dravid. They were the David Gower and Geoffrey Boycott of India. One specialised in winning ODIs, the other Tests.”
“Sourav’s flamboyance had impressed me in that match itself. Brian Lara is the only cricketer who could be as flamboyant. Sourav was not as gifted as Wasim Akram or Sachin Tendulkar, he had to work a lot harder.”