We love cricket simply because Sourav Ganguly brought integrity back to itSanjana Ray
Every cricket novice has grown up singing praises of the Prince of Kolkata – our favourite ‘Dada’. We have blind faith and loyalty invested into the man who managed to recover Indian cricket, from the corrupt practices it had fallen into, and who to us- will always be one of the greatest Captains in the world of Cricket. At the time when Indian cricket was losing its value and charm, Sourav Ganguly’s array into the team marked the beginning of a lifelong fandom for most. An iconic figure in the world of cricket, we celebrate the remarkable journey of Sourav ‘Dada’ Ganguly- the ‘God on the Off-Side’- as he turns 44 today.
The early 2000s witnessed a period of high-end bribing and match-fixing by third parties outside the arena of the sport, in the lieu of keeping with the various ‘gentleman’s gambles’ and bets. The world was heart-broken at the tarnished sanctity of the game and the most revered sport started losing its audience.
The conflict reached its peak with the 1999-2000 home-series that India played against South Africa. After the series concluded, the Delhi Police under Crime Branch officer Ishwar Singh Redhu, came up with startling revelations that suggested that financial transactions between some cricketers and ‘bookies’ had taken place, enough to alter the course of the match. Although the Police wished to interrogate the cricketers from both teams, the South African Government did not allow their players to be talking to the Indian authorities. However, a few days later- Hansie Cronje, the then Captain of the South African Team confessed to have taken money from bookmarkers to ‘underperform’, to throw matches and to influence other team-mates to do the same. He also named Mohammad Azharuddin (India), Ajay Jadeja (India) and Saleem Malik (Pakistan) as players who had in some way or the other connected him to the bookies. With clear-cut evidence being discovered regarding all these cricketers in question- the four were banned from cricket, with others serving terms outside the field as well.
It was amidst all this confusion that Ganguly managed to enter the foray and was made captain. He picked up the pieces and helped the team out of the entire scandal with the help of Tendulkar, Dravid and Kumble. Rising to the position in 2000, Ganguly led the team into a series of celebratory victories that strengthened his hold on the field of international cricket and the team, in particular. He insisted that a foreign coach be hired to train the team and that is when the dynamic John Wright – Sourav Ganguly partnership began.
Ganguly’s strategic-thinking made him pick some of the country’s finest cricketers- V. Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan- to the team and it was this pivotal batch of Dada’s selects who contributed to winning the World Cup in 2011. He changed the method of selection- from regional quota to merit-based.
It was under his leadership that India became an international force in the world of cricket, we went from the eighth to the second rank in work records, and it was his guidance which helped the team beat Australia’s 15-match long winning streak in 2001 with a 2-1 series win. It was also under his leadership that India won their first series against Pakistan, a historical date on the cricket timeline.
Ganguly showed the world that India knew how to fight back and to make his point more clear, he took off and waved his jersey in the balcony of Lords- a venue that symbolises the ‘genteel’ of the gentleman’s game. The world understood that ‘Dada’ meant serious business and was not going to hold back.
Although Ganguly’s run on the field has been a bit of a roller-coaster with the Indian Premiere League, he continues to be one of the most iconic figures in the world of cricket and one of the finest captains who have led the Indian cricket Team, till date.