In the 2000s, Sourav Ganguly took over a side that was reeling under the cloud of the match-fixing controversy. He then became the architect of a strong Indian team. Most of the senior and experienced players were under investigation and the preceding captain had stepped down in the wake of the match fixing scam and the only person whom the BCCI could think of next was the headstrong and aggressive Sourav Ganguly. What Ganguly did during his stint as the captain of the Indian side is nothing short of revolutionary.
Sourav Ganguly not only wiped the old team but brought in flesh blood who proved to be match winners for the country. He brought the likes Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh,Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Mohammad Kaif, Irrfan Pathan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni to the team.
He developed a team of players, who play to win not draw or focus on individual performances.
In 1992, Ganguly made his One-Day International (ODI) debut against West Indies in Australia. It wasn’t a happy outing as he could only score three runs and was axed after the tour.
People discarded him by calling quota player, but it just took 1 innings to change the mindset of spectators and cognoscenti’s. He scored an amazing hundred On his Test debut at Lords which was a knock full off dazzling strokes through the off-side – which would go on to become his trademarks over the years, followed by yet another hundred at Trent Bridge.
A city that is known for producing footballers and eminent politicians – Sourav Ganguly’s arrival marked the beginning of an unparalleled hysteria.
While It was almost next to impossible to beat India at home, but outside the subcontinent, they were slaughtered like a lamb. Under his leadership, India shed the tag of being poor travelers as overseas victories became more frequent occurrences than they ever were. No longer would India allow the Aussies to get away with sledging or the English with verbal taunts. And leading from the front in all of this was the captain himself. India was not used to winning. Change was needed and he brought it about.
One of the biggest contribution of Sourav in Indian cricket was ending regional biasedness which existed in cricket. Prior to him there was always a regional bias in the selection of Indian team. In the 1970’s and 1980’s- Mumbai was the hotbed of Indian cricket. It was not because the talented cricketers only emerged from that region, it was mainly due to the fact that the dominance of Mumbai in BCCI that only a very few players from other regions got to be selected in Indian team. You had to be very very special to get a chance in the team if not from Mumbai. The situation completely changed after Sourav got to the helm of Indian cricket. He, along with the then chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar started picking up youngsters from across the country with talent and performance being the sole criteria. The beneficiaries? Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Sehwag, Pathan, Kaif, Dhoni…to name a few, almost all of whom came from Tier 2 & 3 cities
Dada successfully led the Indian side into the finals of the 2003 World Cup where India were able to dominate all the sides but lost in the finals to the mighty Australians. With heart breaks all around, Ganguly bowed out to the crowd, congratulating the Aussies. He was a leader who was gracious in defeat as in victory.
He gave the players a free hand to have a go at the opposition and fight till the end, irrespective of results. The Indian team was the only team, who challenged and crumbled the world champions Australia in India and at their home den.
Sourav Ganguly was a kind of a leader who would back his players to the core and even fight with the selectors.
Sourav Ganguly also known as ‘God on the Off Side’ for his impeccable timing has cemented his legacy as one the best left-handers in history. If you ask me, as much as I liked Dada for his skills with the bat, I loved him more for his leadership.
Sourav Ganguly did not just bring transformation as a captain but as a player too. Dada and Dravid changed the perspective of Indian cricket fans who thought India will lose if they lose Sachin early. They injected the confidence that there are other game changers in our team. They both supported well to Sachin in many innings.
Ganguly maintained a healthy average in Tests, but it was the one-day game that suited him the best. The duo of Sachin and Sourav not only complemented each other but created fears in the minds of bowlers. Ganguly was aggressive and transformed his aggression into the team. As a result, the boys under him started to believe in themselves more and got a never say die attitude.
In a world where teams would resort to sledging, Ganguly taught his side to shield from those distractions. There were a few occasions though – where he would try to get underneath the skin of the opposition captain for eg. arriving late for the toss.
Ganguly the leader showed many such leadership ideas like asking Dravid to keep to get in an extra batting option as India lacked a proper allrounder who could bat and bowl 10 overs whereas Yuvraj,Sachin and Sehwag were decent bowlers. While Sehwag made his debut as a middle order batsman, Ganguly promoted him up the order and asked him to open the innings in his own carefree approach and Sehwag turned out to be one of India’s finest test openers. In the historic Eden Test in Kolkata where India bounced back from the jaws of defeat, Australia were in a good position to draw the test when Ganguly decided to give Sachin the bowl and the trick worked as Sachin picked up few crucial wickets and India won a blinder at the Eden gardens.
You can call him ‘Prince of Calcutta’, ‘Dada’ of Indian Cricket Team, ‘The Maharaja’, ‘The God of the Off side‘ or ‘The Warrior Prince’. Such is the love and admiration for the man in this cricket crazy country. Sourav Ganguly will always feature among the best captains in the history of cricket.
Today as India climbs to its new heights as an International cricket team, one cannot but awe the amazing work which Sourav Ganguly put in to make its foundations. The present captain and almost all the senior players of the present team owe it to him.
He’s the type of bloke you would want to have on your side. When you see an Indian side with Ganguly in the line-up, you know it is game on. You don’t have to like or dislike him. You have to respect him.Steve waugh
“A warrior never dies, till his death. This is what comes to your mind when you think about a certain character in the world of Indian cricket, named Sourav Ganguly.”Amitabh Bachchan