New Delhi:Just when he was fighting hard to get back in the side, many held the opinion that he should quit the game for he was not his best self in terms of form and fitness. And just when everyone wrote him off on making it to the team, he was there, to fight against the mighty Aussies. His presence in the team hushed his critics and made them eat their words. He hammered the last nail as he announced his retirement soon after his selection.
That's Sourav Ganguly for you! Doing everything on his terms, whatever may be the price.
Not that the decision was unexpected but as an ardent Ganguly fan for more than a decade, it was the moment one never wanted to think of. For someone who grew up with his colourful and dramatic career, enjoyed his achievements, sulked over his failures, flayed his critics, whose heart ached for the injustice meted out to him (or so one felt!), it's extremely painful to even think that there will be no more of Ganguly in India's playing XI. All has come to an end at Nagpur, ironically the place where a few years back his commitment was scrutinised.
Ganguly along with Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid formed the batting trinity that gave Indian batting the formidable look. The trio scored around sixty thousand runs in both Tests and ODIs. Ganguly's cover drive, square cuts and 'oh those' sky-tearing sixes will be missed. But more than that, his presence, his passion, his persona will be missed.
His critics will miss him no lesser than his fans. His ability to call 'spade a spade' irked the authorities, his habit of giving it back to his opponents in the language they understood the best miffed them, his knack for challenging rules annoyed the conventionalists. And all these characteristics were so unlike the Indian cricketers that they provided ample fodder for the 'columns' of the 'so-called' cricket pundits.
He remains India's most successful captain not only statistically but also characteristically. His ascendance as Indian captain, gave him the authority to stimulate his boys with similar traits.
Purists might have had their eyes popped out when a bare-chest Ganguly swirled his shirt at the Lords and called Flintoff and his mates few names, but for an Indian cricket fan it was a magical moment. Here was one cricketer who celebrated victories as the fans did. Perhaps, he did what most of us would have liked to do in reply to Flintoff's Mumbai jig after that memorable NatWest Trophy win.
English and Australian media abhorred him. They called him Lord Snooty, arrogant, brash, questioned his attitude because they were not used to an Indian getting on their nerves. Call it their colonial mentality or a sense of superiority, but they never had an Indian cricketer giving them back in their mother tongue with equal vengeance. It was like a new Indian team for them. India were no longer a bunch of gentlemen losers but fighting warriors led by the Maharaja from Kolkata.
As a captain he gave equal respect to the decent demeanor of Dravids and Tendulkars as he gave freedom to the aggressive and younger lot of Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan. He never asked them to curb their natural aggression, instead shepherded them in a manner that each of them proved themselves as genuine match-winners.
Probably his fighting instincts were resultant of the fact that despite his talent and performance, he was always under the microscope. He was asked to prove himself time and again which he did. Even when the best of his supporters lost hope, he never gave up on himself. Whether it was the 1996 Test debut at Lords with a ton after his maiden ODI series in 1992 (where he was criticized for acting pricey) or his miraculous comeback in 2006 after the murky showdown with Greg Chappell backed by the slump in his form and change in the BCCI regime.
Every time he was out of the side, these lines of poet William Butler Yeats assured his fans:
"Surely some revelation is at hand...Surely the Second Coming is at hand The Second Coming!"
Alas! These lines will no more console his fans for Ganguly has finally decided to hang his boots and the blue jersey.
As they say 'all good things come to an end', it's time to accept the bitter truth that there won't be another 'Second coming' from the Prince!