If there was ever an Indian cricketer who could associate with himself the words passion, fight, aggression and desire, it had to be Sourav Ganguly.
There are millions of Indians who would not admit that they love Dada. And there are millions who would. There was a time when the debate between Ganguly haters and Ganguly lovers was the most interesting thing in Indian cricket. I have been part of such debates and quite unabashedly, taken both the sides at different times.
It is tough to be labeled as one of the most hated man in the country. Though if someone really said that, you or I would have dismissed it as hyperbole on second thoughts, but I doubt if Ganguly would. It is easy to be a Sachin Tendulkar, to be loved every second, and to have bad patches dismised as bad lucks. It is easy to be a Rahul Dravid, with no one ever doubting your technique or skill. It was never easy to be Sourav Ganguly. And to have your passion and dedication questioned at every step, it is indeed hell.
Dada taught India how to look in the eye of the opponent. If not for him, the subsequent captains and teams wouldn’t have been half as aggresive as they turned out to be. Many regard Ganguly’s act of making Steve Waugh wait for the toss as unethical. In retrospect, I wouldn’t consider it to be an unethical act. Yes, Steve Waugh is an amazing cricketing mind and respected senior, but a little bit of egoism and a little bit of high handedness from the Indian captain probably set the tone for the series. Of course, it would have been shameful had India lost, but the team went on to complete a historic series victory. Ganguly deserved all that.
As Indian cricket fans, we do the same mistake again and again. Most of the time we are ignorant of how to measure success and talent. Like how evaluating Sachin’s success in terms of India’s victories and defeats is pedestrian and narrow line of thought, it is equally pedestrian to think of Ganguly’s contribution in terms of the runs he has scored and the batting average he holds.
Seldom do people with a quiet disposition and straightforward thinking succeed in life. A little bit of eccentricity and craziness is often associated with deep thinkers and intelligent men. They approach problems differently. They do so because they are passionate and immensely love what they do. Sourav Ganguly had nerves of steel, who could take on the world’s greatest captains and their teams, and turn the tide with his leadership. India would undoubtedly miss Dada, the leader and also Dada, the offside specialist.
It is a season where we are all watching a presidential candidate trying to gain some foothold by proclaiming himself as a “maverick”. Why is that suddenly such a positive sounding word? I am not sure if that candidate is worthy of the term but if there was ever a maverick in the Indian cricket team, worthy of our respect for exactly those qualities, then it had to be Sourav Ganguly.
So long, and thanks for all the clenched teeth.