Adieu, Dada..

Posted: November 10, 2008 in Saurav Ganguly

What an emotional rollercoaster for Saurav Ganguly.
Coming out to bat for the very last time for India, with the whole ground giving a standing ovation, the Australian team giving him an ovation, his head struggling to remove the gravity of the occasion out and focus on the game, and the next ball…
Luckily for him, a spinner is bowling. An Australian debutant spinner, someone Dada could normally be ready to face, if he was woken up from deep slumber and asked to go and play…
Could not get easier than that, really. Or so you would think.
Because the innocuous turn of the wrist on that first ball, was a shade too early, resulting in a leading edge of the bat, and that debutant bowler lunged ahead, to pick up a return catch.
First ball dismissal. A golden duck, to end an illustrious career.
The long walk back to the pavilion, accompanied first by stunned silence as the fans grasped what had just happened in front of their eyes, and then a thundering last applause for their favourite Dada, who had entertained them so well, over the years.
Suddenly it was all over.
It seems that Saurav went into the pavilion and did not remove his pads for at least 20 more minutes. The intense cricketer that he is, one can just imagine what could be going on in his mind. Is this it? Is it finallly, finally over? Did it just happen…? Oh my God.. !

Yes, an emotional rollercoaster…

A century in his first innings, and a duck in his last innings. Can only happen to as mercurial a person as Saurav Ganguly. It kind of exemplifies the ups and downs that Saurav has had in his career, the highs and lows that he has provided to his fans over the years.

When he has been on song, he has been the most entertaining batsman on the field, bar none. His two steps down the pitch and the beautiful swing to send the ball into the stands at long on, or his picture perfect square drives that leave the fielders stunned as the ball crashes into the boundaries, are shots that we will not mind seeing again and again on video replays.

And yet the time when he struggled so badly against the rising delivery going across his body, that he was a sucker for even a medium fast bowler, was so painful for fans to see (yours truly, included). You would have wanted him to retire than go through such humiliation from average bowlers.

But those were the kind of highs and lows that Saurav-da gave his fans.

The fact that he dug himself out, after that struggle against the rising delivery, after being unceremoniously dropped out of the team, was mind blowing. At that stage of his career, many other players would have opted to just let things go by, retire, enjoy family life, become a commentator or whatever…

But Saurav showed his grit and determination, something that was seen so often in his intensive play on the ground against tough opponents like Australia and England. Saurav worked at the nets, played club cricket, played the Ranji Trophy, went to English county cricket.. did everything that he could, to a) get back to form, and b) ensure that selectors could not ignore his performance anymore. He came back to the team, not on the strength of friendly selectors, but on the strength of his performance.

And that then, was the true test of his calibre. Could he deliver at the highest level, what he had done in first class cricket? You could see on his return, the quiet Saurav. One who did not seem to chat as much with his old friends, and old mates. One who was almost aloof. But one who truly wanted to show the world what he is capable of. Hard work, sheer hard work, huge determination, intense concentration written all over his face, ensured that he got runs. And got them big. And the world acknowledged again.

Where Sachin has been bestowed the honor of being the force of Indian cricket for last many years, I truly believe that the one person responsible for a genuine turnaround of Indian cricket, of instilling within the team and the fans that self-belief, of competing with the best in the world on equal terms (“if they can take off the shirt, we can not only take it off, but swing it madly in victory”, etc.), it was Saurav Ganguly.

And he has now played his last innings for India. Adieu, Saurav.. you have given us a lot of entertainment, and we will miss you.

—————

P.S. I do not say “stay back, Saurav, for some more..” because while all of the above is true, I also have the memory of a painful scene in his last test. When, as he jogged behind a ball going to the boundary, the Australian batsmen RAN four runs! And whereas, the young debutant batsman of India, Vijay, took two wickets – with his sharp fielding. Yes, unfortunately, today’s cricket demands faster legs, stronger arms, speed… its best that the likes of Saurav (and later VVS, Dravid and Sachin too) retire when they are doing.

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