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Happy Birthday, Sourav Ganguly: Demanding leader, fearless competitor

Wisden India Staff

Last Updated: July 08, 2015, 11:18 IST

Happy Birthday, Sourav Ganguly: Demanding leader, fearless competitor

Ganguly is rightly regarded as one of the greats of the 50-over game, and his opening partnership with Sachin Tendulkar will be looked back on fondly for many years to come.

Sourav Ganguly has always prompted mixed feelings. One day, he leads the side to its most famous triumph at hallowed Lord's and celebrates with shirtless abandon. The next, he is involved in a public disagreement with the team's coach, in what was one of the biggest dramas in Indian cricket.

What can't be disputed is his standing as a batsman, particularly in One-Day Internationals. He is rightly regarded as one of the greats of the 50-over game, and his opening partnership with Sachin Tendulkar will be looked back on fondly for many years to come.

On Wednesday (July 8), dada turned 43. Long retired, he now spends time in the commentary box, is part of the Board of Control for Cricket in India's advisory committee, and is involved in administrative matters at the Cricket Association of Bengal, among other things.

As he celebrates another birthday, Wisden India looks at some of Ganguly's memorable performances in coloured clothing.

96 v Pakistan, Toronto, September 1997

Ganguly's approach to batting in ODIs has always elicited talk of surgeons and precision. In the Sahara Friendship Cup against Pakistan, he proved just how much of a problem poser he really could be to the opposition. With the bat, he totalled 222 runs in five innings, averaging a fine 55.50. There was the unbeaten 75 in the fourth ODI which helped India seal a seven-wicket win with three balls remaining. Then, in the next match, he combined with Tendulkar in one of those famous opening stands, putting on 98 for the first wicket, with Ganguly missing out on a century by four runs. If anything, he was as influential with the ball as well, his 15 wickets at 10.66 helping him top the charts for the series in both wickets and runs.

24 v Pakistan, Dhaka, January 1998

At the time, it was the highest successful run-chase in ODI history. Centuries from Saeed Anwar and Ijaz Ahmed had helped Pakistan put up a mammoth 314 for 5. Facing a steep chase, Ganguly ate into the target and laid the foundation, even as Tendulkar scored a quick 26-ball 41. Ganguly then went on to add a decisive 179 with Robin Singh for the second wicket, and by the time he was dismissed, for a 138-ball 124 that included 11 fours and a six, India were 274 for 4. India lost a few more wickets, but managed to seal a thrilling three-wicket win, with just a ball remaining. Ganguly was named the Man of the Match.

109 v Sri Lanka, Colombo, July 1998

Another record that Ganguly was involved in - the then highest opening stand in ODIs. In the final match of their tour of Sri Lanka, Ganguly and Tendulkar once again set the stage ablaze, putting on 252 for the opening wicket within 44 overs. Ganguly scored 109 off 136 balls, including six fours and two sixes, with Tendulkar making a 131-ball 128. It helped India put up 307 for 6, and though Sri Lanka mounted a fine chase - Aravinda de Silva scored 105 - India won by six runs.

183 vs Sri Lanka, Taunton, May 1999

When Ganguly's on song, most records stand to be broken. He saved his most dominant performance in coloured clothing for the biggest stage, the World Cup. Sri Lanka had a wicket in the very first over, that of Sadagopan Ramesh. Their next success came only in the 46th over. In the interim, Ganguly and Rahul Dravid put on a display that brought together a rare mix of aggression and elegance. Ganguly initially was happy to let Dravid lead the way, while he gracefully split the offside with incisive drives. But once he reached his century off 119 balls, he decided to shift gears. He needed just 39 more balls to reach 183 - his highest score in the format - and by the time he was dismissed, he had 17 fours and seven sixes to his name.

His score was then the highest ODI knock by an Indian; the 318-run partnership with Dravid (145) was the highest partnership at that point; and India's 373 for 6 was the second-largest ODI total at the time.

153* v New Zealand, Gwalior, November 1999

It was a damp wicket, and the Indian batsmen were struggling. Tendulkar had fallen for just one after facing 23 deliveries, and Dravid, who had managed a 31-ball 14, followed suit. Ganguly hung in there. He put on small partnerships with Nikhil Chopra and Ajay Jadeja, but at 142 for 5 in the 39th over, India's position was still precarious. But Ganguly had settled in to good touch and with support from Robin Singh, added 119 for the sixth wicket. He carried his bat, his dogged 150-ball 153 including 18 fours and three sixes. To put things in perspective, the next highest scores in the innings were 45, 15 and 15. India eventually won by 14 runs.

141 v Pakistan, Adelaide, January 2000

Another classy innings on a true pitch where other batsmen struggled. Ganguly led the way after India opted to bat, putting on 88 with Tendulkar for the opening wicket, and 87 with Dravid for the second. Where others failed to get anything more than starts, Ganguly rolled out his full range of strokes and reached the three-figure mark in 118 balls. He was at the crease till the penultimate over, when his knock was ended for a 144-ball 141, including 12 fours and a six. Again, the other big scores in the innings were 41, 32 and 21. Pakistan were bowled out for 219 in their chase of 268 as India won by 48.

141* v South Africa, Nairobi, October 2000

This was Ganguly at his exhilarating best. It was the semifinal of the ICC KnockOut tournament, and India had barged into South Africa, the favourites. However, the likes of Allan Donald, Jacques Kallis and Lance Klusener found Ganguly - captaining the side now - in an excitable mood. He had started with restraint, but something snapped when Nicky Boje came in to bowl, and he was lifted for three sixes as 26 runs came off his two overs. Thereafter, Ganguly displayed the best of his strokes.

He put on 66, 145 and 82 with Tendulkar, Dravid and Yuvraj Singh respectively during the course of his 142-ball 141, which included 11 fours and six sixes. South Africa couldn't match his exuberance, and were eventually felled by 95 runs.

60 v England, Lord's, July 2002

The NatWest Series final. At Lord's. The stage was set. But things didn't go entirely to plan for India initially, with Marcus Trescothick and Nasser Hussain both scoring centuries as England posted 325 for 5 - England's fourth highest total in ODIs and a record for a Lord's final. However, the Indian reply was of such ferocious nature that the bowlers had little time to find their feet. Ganguly, typically, led the way. He brought up his half-century in just 35 balls and such was his aggression that even Virender Sehwag found it hard to keep up with his captain. Ganguly was bowled for a 43-ball 60, but his aggression laid the platform -Mohammad Kaif would later seal a famous victory, leading to the now cult gesture of Ganguly baring his torso at the Lord's balcony, swinging his shirt above him.

90 v England, Lord's, September 2004

This was the last game of a three-match series against England shortly before the Champions Trophy. With wickets falling around him, Ganguly opted for steady accumulation at first, putting on 93 with Dravid for the fourth wicket. He shifted gears after reaching his half-century though, but fell ten short of a century, his 119-ball 90 coming with five fours and three sixes. His efforts helped boost India's total to 204, and although it still seemed too small, the Indian pacemen reduced England to 62 for 6 within 20 overs and eventually sealed a 23-run win.

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    98 v West Indies, Nagpur, January 2007

    Things had changed dramatically for Ganguly in the mid-2000s. Off-field problems and form issues had meant he hadn't played an ODI in 15 months. However, on his comeback, he provided a reminder of his capabilities. With Gautam Gambhir as his opening partner, he put on 114 for the first wicket - carving the offside and dancing down the track to lift sixes like he did in his pomp. He was unfortunate in that he missed out on a century, run out for a 110-ball 98, but his efforts had helped India post 338 for 3 - a total that was enough for a 14-run win despite Shivnarine Chanderpaul's 136-ball 149.

    first published:July 08, 2015, 11:18 IST
    last updated:July 08, 2015, 11:18 IST