In one line, “India’s best captain ever”. Yes, he’s not won the world cup as the great Kapil Dev did. But one final victory does not make a captain. At least, that’s not my yardstick for judging a captain. Ganguly changed the Indian mentality, the Indian way of playing cricket.
A very crucial defining moment as captain came when Steve Waugh’s Australia toured India in 2001. India paid back Australia both with words (read sledging) and with the bat. Yes, maybe he was lucky that Laxman chose to play the innings of his life (everybody’s life!) when it mattered most. But yes, the “never say die” attitude ground in the past years by Saurav did make it happen.
A quick look at Ganguly’s batting… Let us accept that he was never a great test bat. He has an average of 41.5, and as captain, it’s not much different. As he warily mentioned during the post match conference on Sunday (after the Ind-Pak match at Kolkata), he’s had a good last 14 matches. In fact, his average in the last 15, which includes a couple of really bad matches like the one at Kolkata, is nearly 43. The presence of geniuses like Sachin and Dravid, who’ve got averages the height of Everest should certainly not undermine Saurav.
He’s made great sacrifices as a team man in the shorter version of the game, dropping down the order to accommodate the belligerent Sehwag and the popular Sachin, though he was at his best opening and had been the most consistent. (For a long time, Saurav had a better ODI average than Sachin).
Yes, his fielding is indifferent, he’s too cocky at times, but overall, he’s been great for India. It’s the only thing India needed when it was abounding in talent with the likes of Sachin, Dravid and the dada himself — direction and motivation.
And no eulogy of Ganguly would be complete without the innings that changed India’s fortunes — Brisbane, 2003, 144(196). It’s an innings that gave India too much impetus, that Australia could bounce back only at Melbourne, thanks mainly to some shoddy lower order batting. And yes, his form in South Africa before the 1999 WC, creaming Pollock square of the wicket for six after six. It was a pity that we managed to lose so many matches in SA, despite the form Saurav and Sachin were in. And why end this whole essay without a mention of that imperious 128 at Headingley. Yes, Dravid, Bangar and Sachin himself had built the platform. But, No. 5 batsmen never build platforms, they rub it in when the others have done their part, and that’s what Ganguly did with such awesome arrogance.
Kudos to you dada. I believe your best is still to come.
p.s. will try and hyperlink the quoted matches soon.