Kolkata:Having hit his first international century at Eden Gardens, local hero Sourav Ganguly today said the knock had taken a burden off his shoulders.
"Expectations will always be high wherever I play. But getting a hundred at Eden is always special. The century here has definitely taken the burden off my shoulders," Ganguly told reporters after hitting a scintillating 102 on the second day of the second Test against Pakistan.
The left-hander said since he grew up playing on the this ground it was a different feeling to get a hundred at Eden.
"This is definitely my best innings at the Eden. It feels great to score a hundred at any part of the world, but scoring a hundred here is always different. Since I have played all my life on this ground, it is always a different feeling. It would have been very disappointing if I had missed out."
Ganguly has totalled a miserly 292 in his previous seven Test matches at the Eden, at a below par average of 24.33.
His only previous 50 plus score on this ground had come eight and half years back against Australia when he got 65.
Ganguly's immediate reaction on reaching the hundred also betrayed his emotions as he raised his bat, threw his hands up and almost jumped in joy, as the entire Eden gave their favourite cricketing star a rousing ovation.
Asked how he planned his innings, Ganguly said "I played each ball on its merit. And I got help from the fast outfield as well. The important thing was to stay there and focus on batting."
"I just went out and played my natural game and never thought of a hundred," Ganguly said.
The 34-year-old batsman said the new ball taken yesterday by Pakistan skipper Younis Khan helped him.
"The new ball is harder, and you get full value for your shots. The old ball is softer, and the ball doesn't go".
On the pitch, Ganguly said the track has been a batting paradise for the first two days, but prediced a turning wicket from the last session tomorrow.
"It will deteriorate further on day four and five and spinners will play a vital role on this ground. We have two world class spinners in (Anil) Kumble and Harbhajan (Singh) who are both in good form.
"And I have a feeling that reverse swing may also play an important role from tomorrow itself," he added.
The seasoned pro said that India had high probability of winning the match.
"There are still three more days to go in the match. If we bowl well, we can always take 20 wickets."
Ganguly also lauded young Pakistan pacer Sohail Tanvir.
"He bowls well to left handers and I did have to make some adjustment."
Lavishing praise on Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akhtar, who played the match after having to spend a day in the hospital before the tie due to a chest infection, Ganguly said he was quick despite being unwell. More
"Shoaib did not look very well yesterday. But today he was quick enough. He stood up for his country, despite being in the hospital for two days," Ganguly said.
On Wasim Jaffer's double ton, Ganguly said the Mumbai opener has been a revelation to Indian cricket since his comeback to international cricket.
"I have always been a fan of this opening batsman, like I was of Sehwag. He always puts a bad ball away, which takes the pressure off."
Asked about pacer Zaheer Khan, who could not complete his second over after sending down only two balls following a twisted ankle, Ganguly replied "he will be back tomorrow morning."
Ganguly said his team was aware that Pakistan could also come up with a high score in their first innings on this track.
"That is why scoring 616 in the first innings was very important," he said.
Kolkata went into raptures on Saturday after local boy and former captain Sourav Ganguly cracked an impressive century, his first at Eden Gardens here, on the second day of the Test match against Pakistan, sparking spontaneous celebrations across the city.
Hundreds of people gathered in front of Sourav's Behala residence in south Kolkata with placards and huge cut-outs of the left-hander and exchanged sweets and smeared one other with gulal.
"I feel so happy. It's a great day for us as Sourav has finally scored a century at Eden Gardens. It is a great occasion for all cricket-loving Kolkatans and we don't want to let the occasion go by without celebrations," Saibal Aditya, a diehard fan of Ganguly, said.
The cricketer's fans also took out a massive rally and toured several areas of the city, shouting slogans hailing Saurav.
The left-hander cracked a sparkling century, his 14th, contributing to India's massive total of 616/5 declared.
It was India's highest total against Pakistan at home, surpassing the previous best of 539-9 declared at Chennai in 1961.
Ganguly batted extremely well against both Pakistani pace and spin attack. He hit 14 fours in his 156-ball knock.
"I don't have any words to explain how excited I felt when I saw Sourav scoring a century and that too on his home turf. It was simply an experience of a lifetime," said another fan Somnath Bhattacharya.
(With IANS inputs)