Nagpur:Sourav Ganguly on Monday bid farewell to international cricket amid emotional scenes with more than 18,000 runs under his belt and leaving a rich legacy for the posterity at the end of a 16-year controversy-marred tumultuous career.
In between his century in the debut Test in 1992 and the Bradmanesque exit for a duck in the final innings, Ganguly's has been an unputdownable story with umpteen twists and turns and in the end of it all, the 'God on the off-side' walked out with his head held high.
His retirement, topping Anil Kumble's exit after the third Test, was timed with the same precision that has been the hallmark of his batting. With the departure of these two, three of the 'Fab Five' - Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, will still continue to don the Test cap for India.
Whether the controversial soccer-style shirt waving from the Lord's balcony or the easy-going manner that got him a sobriquet 'Lord Snooty', Ganguly had his own style that also often him in controversies.
His brush with new coach Greg Chappell got him out of the team and he also picked up a fight with his mentor Jagmohan Dalmiya only to make up with him later. He staged a come back into the national team after cooling his heels for nine months.
In the midst of media speculation over the 'Fab Five', Ganguly also hit back saying he knew when to go but when the actual announcement of his retirement came before the start of the series, it did come as a surprise to many. He will now play in the Indian Premier League - domestic cricket with internationals stars.
In an era dominated by Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, Ganguly was also one of the best batsman around, both statistically and aesthetically. Each of the 18,000-plus runs he scored, mostly piercing the off-side, showed he knew how to put the bat to the ball.
His weakness against the short-pitched stuff was well-documented but he was neither the first nor the last batsman with a clear discomfiture for the chin music.
And for a batsman, who at one stage was considered almost paraplegic to anything pitched on the leg, Ganguly overcame this flaw as well in the subsequent phase of his career. He may not have been as effervescent like Lara on the leg but Ganguly was effective nonetheless.
Quitting with a 40-plus average in both forms of the game and 38 centuries against his name, Ganguly surely carved a niche for himself as one of the greatest ODI batsmen ever.
While fans will fondly remember his silky cover-drives and soaring sixes, Ganguly the skipper is likely to overshadow Ganguly the batsman in the history of the game.
Ganguly inherited the team at a time when Indian cricket was struggling to shed the match-fixing slur and by the time he was through with it, Ganguly had established himself as country's most successful captain, courtesy those 21 wins that came under his stewardship spanning 49 Test matches.
Once his highly successful partnership with coach John Wright came to an end with the affable Kiwi returning home, Ganguly's subsequent career was marked by umpteen intrigues and irony and the left-hander, credit to his resilience, survived it all.
Ganguly played a key role to get Greg Chappell as the new India coach but soon sparks flew as two men of equally strong personalities found it difficult to go together.
Subsequently, Ganguly first lost captaincy and then his place in the side to vanish into the wilderness and few believed him whenever he talked about the possibility of a comeback.
But for someone who always derived some pleasure out of proving people wrong, Ganguly kept his word and clawed his way back into the side and with a new-found consistency and ironically it was Chappell who eventually had to quit after a tumultuous stint.
Since his comeback, Ganguly hardly put a foot wrong. He returned with an altered batting philosophy which put industry before incendiary and application before aggression. Those lofted sixes or uppish cuts were less frequent as Ganguly saw the virtue in patience.
Ganguly never hid his disappointment after getting axed from the ODI squad and once he was ignored for the Irani Cup, the left-hander probably saw the writing on the wall.
For someone who dictated terms all along, Ganguly wanted to go on his own terms. Although talks about cricket's version of Voluntary Retirement Scheme did the rounds, Ganguly insisted he was going on his own.
A charismatic leader who had a wholesome hatred for Australia's hegemony in world cricket, India shed their 'poor traveller' tag under him and learnt to win Tests abroad.
Turning up late for toss, figuring in many an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations, doing something as outrageous as taking off his shirt and swirling it at the hallowed balcony of Lord's - Ganguly evoked both admiration and irritation but never boredom.
The English press dubbed him 'Lord Snooty' while Australia fumed at his 'delaying tactics'. But for his legions of admirers, Ganguly was the captain courageous, who backed his teammates to the hilt and never indulged in regionalism that plagued Indian cricket for long.