French meaning of the word : Renaissance : from ri- “again” and nascere “be born”
“The key to change… is to let go of fear” – Rosanne Cash
Accepting changes to the norm is never easy, bringing them in is even more difficult even more so when it involves getting others around to accept that change and get them to channelise their energies towards the change…. If ever an Indian were to be named the man who brought about a change to Indian cricket it would have to be Sourav Ganguly.
SOURAV GANGULY – The man who taught us to look in the eye of the enemy and not blink !
People who have followed Indian cricket closely since the late 80’s to till date would definitely know what has changed. Indian cricket was a bunch of talented cricketers before in the twentieth century. Some magnificient players, super talented who on their day could single handedly put any team down but consistently and regularly be beaten by a more organised unit. The twentieth century also witnessed an Indian team who were tigers at home, however the less said about our performances abraod the better. A few victories apart, cricketers abroad licked their lips at the prospect of a visiting Indian team.
However in the beginning of the 21st century one temperamental Bengali often termed as spoiled child or quota player was given the reins of the Indian team at its nadir.
India under Sachin had been badly bruised in Australia 3-0 in tests. In 8 one dayers against Pakistan and Australia we managed to win 1, incidentally in that 1 ODI win it was Sourav who scored a century. Coming back from that tour Sachin had lost the will to lead but he was asked to carry on for the South Afrian Tests and that was the time disaster struck and the Proteas sneaked the Test Series which was after a very long time that a visiting test team won a series in India.
Ganguly was made ODI captain and we won the series against Africa but that was not the headlines, it was Hansie Cronje…
People lost faith, people like me who loved the game dreaded discussing it as people would only say one thing… Its FIXED !
Indian cricket couldnt be any lower than that point… faced with another THRASHING… as Steve Waugh’s side was to tour India. This Steve Waugh side was being compared to the invincibles of Bradman. They were the best team that ever was, better than the windies in the 80’s as they even had a spinner and were not only reliant on pace. It was all conquering and they didnt even play draws. The only thing missing in Steve Waugh’s portfolio was a Test Series Win in India…
They had won 15 consecutive Tests and won the first in Mumbai inside 3 days convincingly to make it 16 in a row. In Eden Gardens in the second Test India were staring down the barrel having been made to follow on. The only hope India had was if Steve Waugh inflicted the follow on. Steve Waugh was ultra aggressive and in the process he left a door open for India. It was slight, but in the second innings what followed was mind boggling as two men played as if possessed. VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid batted out the fourth day without losing a wicket.
On the fourth day evening after Harsha Bhogle interviewed VVS & Rahul he went to Sourav to discuss how would the match progress and Sourav just put his hand around Harbhajan and told Harsha this guy will win me the test match tomorrow and the rest as they say, is history!!!!!!
Yes, Sourav will forever be indebted to VVS and Rahul who enabled the fightback, but leadership is about belief, it would have been not at all a worthy Test had it been drawn. The belief that Sourav had in Bhajji and the confidence he gave his players was something extraordinary.
“Men often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it even if I didn’t have it in the beginning.” – Mahatma Gandhi
More than just the victory in this series one thing was most noticeable, the Aussies are sledging champs and they prided in the fact that they never could be gotten back at. This was the series, this was the time when the Indians learnt to give it back as good as they got. No one could get away saying what they liked. The new confident India which was economically becoming a strong power now seemed evident on the cricket field.
Sourav’s keen eye for talent has given India discoveries that we are still gushing about. Sehwag, Yuvraj, Zaheer, Dhoni they all came in while Sourav was at the helm.
I also remember this particular story when Mr. Pradeep Magazine was going to a Indian Airlines match and met Sourav on the way and he told him to watch out of the the keeper, saying he was a “Chabook Player” !!!
That Chabook Player is no one else but our own M S Dhoni !!!!
Yes, it was Sourav who told Veeru that he is too good a player to be sitting out and that while there was no space in the middle order he must open the innings and today we all gush about our greatest possession in Virender Sehwag’s Dare Devil Act.
Sourav’s belief in his men and the confidence and security he provided them led to some famous overseas wins like Headingly and Adelaide. Indian team was no longer just one or two talented spinners or a wristy batsman… They were a team, a galvanised team. Not many captains preceeding Ganguly could claim that feat.
Sourav’s contribution to Indian cricket cannot be measured, but all who follow Indian cricket understand what changed since 2001.
Another favourite Sourav story…
When Andrew Flintoff in Mumbai after equalling a ODI series took off his T-shirt and ran amok in Wankhede, Ganguly caught on camera smashed a bottle of water in disgust as his team was unable to pull off the series win. The hurt man never forgot this act it was to be returned yes, a world record chase by two young kids was set up and the response to the series levelling win in Mumbai was a series win in England. Yes the brash in Sourav was out there at its best on the Balcony when he took off his T-shirt and waved pronoucing the choicest words… !!!!! The guy didnt forget and yes, what was given to him was returned with interest.
We were most proud then Sourav… Most proud even now of you… !!!!! As you hang your boots and retire from cricket you can rest assured you will never retire from our hearts, we shall always remember you as a man who changed Indian cricket forever, the man that brought in the change, the man that injected the steel, the man who galvanised the team.
Your contributions are second to none !!!!