Ganguly: The captain of India
The year 2000 saw Sourav Ganguly being named the captain of the team India for the one-day series. The series won by India is best remembered for South African captain Hansie Cronje’s revelation of being involved in the match fixing scandal along with some Indian cricketers. The scandal caused a lot of hue and cry in the cricket fraternity and Indian cricket almost came to a stand still with two of the most experienced cricketers slapped with bans imposed on their cricket careers.
But Sourav’s success story as the captain of Indian side had just started as later that year, India went to the final of the Mini World Cup or ICC Knockuut (now known as ICC Champions Trophy) but the next series saw the most embarrassing and biggest defeat ever for India against Sri Lanka in Sharjah. Chasing a score of 300 runs the whole Indian team, including the batsmen like Sachin, Sourav, Rahul and Yuvraj bundled out for just 54 runs handing over a 245 run defeat to India, then a world record. In the same series Indian batting surrendered to the guile of Muttiah Muralitharan with Murali finishing his best figures in the ODIs: 7-30, that too against India which probably had the best batting line up against spinners.
The year 2001 witnessed the invincible Australian side touring India, riding high on their world record of consecutive 16 wins, the team came here to win what their captain Steve Waugh called the final frontier. Aussies drubbed India in the very first test match of the series and it seemed Waugh’s wish to beat India in its own backyard would come true.
The next match was in Kolkata where Harbhajan’s hat-trick and the historic partnership between VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid not only turned the match as well as the series head on. The three most talked about factors of the series were Harbhajan ‘The Tubanator’s lethal bowling, batting of Very Very Special Laxman and tactics of Sourav Ganguly of making Aussie captain Steve Waugh wait for the toss and his match strategy.
But Sourav the captain achieved a milestone in the India’s tour to England in the year 2002. Though India managed to draw the test series it was in the Natwest triangular series that India won from England.
The same match which witnessed the Indian captain waving his shirt in the Lord’s balcony. The match remains to be a real thriller which saw India chasing down the daunting task of 325 runs giving India two more cricketing heroes, Yuvraj and Kaif. Both of whom were trying to get a foothold in the international arena.
The best thing about Ganguly’s captaincy was him backing the talented but out of favour players. Be it Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Yuvraj Singh or Mohammed Kaif. Ganguly prepared a whole new bunch of young cricketers who were ready to fight it out in the middle. And the world saw the new face of Indian cricket a young, aggressive and hungry for win team.
The very same year India became the joint winner of the ICC Champions trophy with Sri Lanka. But ahead lied a tough series for India in New Zealand India was drubbed comprehensively 5-2. Ganguly’s captaincy came under the hammer as India went to World Cup South Africa.
The World Cup 2003 did not start on a happy note for India as they lost to Australia in just their second game of the tournament. Ganguly not only drew flak from people back home but also saw everyone asking him to quit captaincy.
But then came the turn around with India going on a winning spree which unfortunately came to an end in the World Cup final with India losing to Australia again. And India’s hope to recreate the feat of Kapil’s devils came to an end.
Later in 2003 India toured Australia where they were considered the underdogs. Sourav who was susceptible against the bouncers took Aussies by surprise in the very first match by scoring a hundred. Though India took the lead in the second test but they could manage to draw the test series only and lost the finals of the one-day series.
But Australia tour was followed by India’s tour to Pakistan in 2004 after defeating Pakistan in one-dayers. Sourav and company repeated the feat in the test series. Though the series is still remembered for Sehwag’s 309 it was Indian bowlers, most of whom were backed by Sourav, who turned the game in India’s favour.
Later that year Australia came to India to win what they called their “final frontier” and much to world’s surprise beat India with a margin of 2-1 in the test series. The series also saw Ganguly being dragged into controversy when he pulled out of the Nagpur test protesting against the green top pitch.
Ganguly’s captaincy came under the hammer again in the year 2005 when Pakistan team toured seeking revenge for their defeat on the home soil. It was the last series of the Sourav and coach john Wright duo and India wanted to present him with a win in the series. But India won neither in tests nor in one day series. Where Pakistan drew the test series they beat India in comprehensively in the one-day series. Again Ganguly was the target of the criticism from both people and India for his poor batting form. Things got worse for Ganguly as he was slapped with match ban for his team’s poor bowling rate. And it seemed Ganguly’s captaincy has lost its effectiveness. John Wright’s association with Indian team ended and BCCI appointed Greg Chappell as the new coach of the Indian team.
Came India’s tour to Zimbabwe where the spat between Ganguly-Chappell took place. Chappell asked Ganguly to sit out and a controversy took place.
Chappell accused Ganguly of being insecure about his place in the side and a leak of his mail to the board let the cat out of the hat creating a media furor and resulting in Ganguly losing not only his captaincy but also his place in the side.
Ganguly’s deputy Rahul Dravid was given the captaincy of the side and harsh treatment was meted out to Dada by coach and selectors especially chief selector Kiran More. With More even going to an extent of saying, “As long as I am the chief of selector committee Ganguly will not play for India.”
The behaviour of Chappell and More called for public outrage over Ganguly’s omission and treatment meted out to him. It was then that Ganguly appeared in a TV ad asking people, “Apne Dada ko bhoole to nahin na?” The Ganguly emotional commercial may have touched the strings of general public’s heart but selectors remained unaffected. Ganguly further lost his place in the test side as well surprising even Sharad Pawar then BCCI president. Left out in the cold Ganguly’s career seemed to have come to and end.