Monday, October 13, 2008

Remember the TITAN

The curtain is ready to fall on one of the most colourful chapters in the history of Indian - nay - world cricket. Saurav Ganguly was an often mis-understood man and so it was ironically befitting that his departure from the international cricket scene was also tinged with some controversy.
Did he retire on his own terms? Was he forced by the BCCI? And disgusting as it may sound, did a threat to kidnap his daughter have anything to do with his announcement? Nobody knows... and it's possible nobody will ever know. But what we can say for sure it that Indian cricket will never quite be the same without the mysterious, aristocratic Ganguly.
Nobody, and just nobody in the history of Indian cricket has evoked the kind of bipolar emotions that he has consistently done throughout his career. For every glorious extra-cover drive he played to every short ball he awkwardly fended; for every time he danced assuredly down the track to the spinners to every time he misfielded, for every silken boundary he hit to every single or two he refused - people either loved him or loathed him. But there was something more.
Saurav Ganguly fed the Indian teams he led with a potion, an elixir which captains before him had not dared to touch. It was called aggression. And happily for us, team India has since then not stopped consuming it. Who can forget his adrenaline-fuelled shirt twirling on the Lords balcony, when he mocked not just the English cricketers but Lord's tradition itself? Or India's amazing run to the World Cup final in 2003? Or his captain's innings of coruscating brilliance at the Gabba?
No chronicle of his legacy would be complete without a reference to his captaincy and his ability to get the best out of his players, particularly the younger ones. Whether it was the inspired decision to convert Sehwag to an opener, or the rather painful decision to make Dravid keep wicket, or the decision to bring Harbhajan back from relative obscurity for the 2001 Australia series, or the decision to promote Laxman to no.3 in THAT match at the Eden - most of his decisions were taken by putting his players directly in the cauldron - and almost all of them came off.
Saurav Ganguly will be remembered as, statistically and otherwise, India's greatest ever left-handed batsman, an exceptionally good Test match player who never allowed his average to dip below 40 and one of the all-time greats of the one-day game. But most of all, he will be remembered for his brand of captaincy that quite simply changed the face of Indian cricket. The curtain is ready to fall ... but there is one act of the play still left to witness. As Shah Rukh Khan would have said, "Abhi thoda picture baaki hai mere dost". Farewell Saurav. And thank you for the entertainment.