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» » News18 Shorts

Life's come a full circle for Jaspal

17:29 PM December 8, 2006

He is the man who everyone loves to hate. Or the man who people adore completely. Very rare in the history would you find someone who is loathed and loved with as much intensity. Most of the times, either the love or the hate, overweighs the others. Like, in the case of Hitler - more people hate him than the number of people who love him. Or Mahatma Gandhi - Hitler's complete antithesis. Well, our man is certainly an exception. He has traveled up and down; right and left and a lot other galactic ages in human emotion. Saurav Ganguly made his international debut against Australia in India's tour of Australia in 1992. He was abhorred in his maiden visit to Down Under. And for what? Rumors said that he refused to carry water bottles and shoes for Md. Azharuddin (then Captain) and was thus dropped like a hot pan - and was immediately branded by the ever-news-hungry Indian junta and media as " not-a-team-player." Four years later, following a good domestic record, he was recalled into the national side for a Test series against England in England. He made his Test debut at Lords under equally bizarre conditions. Navjyot Singh Sidhu, now fighting a legal battle, fought with Md. Azharuddin (then Captain) and left the team in a hurry. Ganguly fitted into his shoes and how!! He scored a century in that match and repeated the feat in the match, which followed. Ganguly became only the third cricketer ever to score a century on debut at Lord's, after Harry Graham and John Hampshire. He was retained for the One-day team and he went on become a regular in both forms of the game. And since then, there was no stopping Ganguly. There were lean patches in his career but his achievements really overshadow his bad patches. Despite his hot and cold streaks Sourav Ganguly is only the third Indian Test match batsman to maintain a career average that never dipped below 40 runs per innings for his entire Test career. The other two who achieved this feat are Sunil Gavaskar and Md. Azharuddin.Ganguly also shares with G.R. Viswanath of India the record for scoring at least 10 or more centuries and his team either winning or drawing each and every match in which he scored a century. His statistics, including Tests and One-Dayers (as they stand on 7th December, 2006) - Almost 370 international matches, more than 15,000 runs, a batting average of almost 41 in both the versions, 34 centuries, 85 half-centuries, a top score of 183 and 173 in ODIs and Tests respectively, almost 120 wickets, two 5-wicket hauls and more than 150 catches!! He had captained the side for almost 5 years. He led India in a record 49 Test Matches, winning 21 of those, including 12 of them outside India. All three figures are records for Indian Test captains. He also led India to her first series wins in both Tests and ODIs in Pakistan, a feat that had eluded India for over 50 years. Ganguly also led India to more Test wins (11) outside India between 2000 and 2005 than all Indian captains had done between 1980 and and 2000. Like every coin has head and tail, Ganguly's career was not as smooth and clean as it sounds till now. Ganguly is a temperamental player and has often attracted controversy. He has attracted the wrath of match referrees quite a few times, the most severe of which was a ban for 6 matches by ICC match referee Clive Lloyd. And then there were lots more. Coming in late for the toss to swirling his T-shirt atop the Lord's gallery - he had thrown "attitude" at lots of issues. Things ultimately went out of hand when he was shown the door, both as a captain and from the team, after he embroiled himself into another controversy with coach Greg Chappell. As soon as he was axed, there were huge protests and rallies for him on Kolkata streets, Delhi's democratic den and Mumbai and Bangalore's parties. The nation had found another debate - another pin-up boy has been "politicized". The nation burnt with passion and frenzy - some aggressive negativism and some belligerent positivism. Ganguly had become the "scape-goat". And for 10 months he was scanned and re-scanned and re-re-scanned. Every move of his was noticed and made into a story - even if he said a simple hello to the CM, he was "said to be joining politics". He was considered disillusioned and non-zealous. But never did Saurav lose heart. He skipped a few matches - which by any logical sense was definite to happen, recuperating from a loss - losing his Captaincy and his place in the team came as a double blow. And then, he started wielding his bat once again. In the Challenger Series, he did not shine but did not come a cropper too. His performance was mediocre and he knew that he had to rise above the mediocrity to get back the place that was taken away from him, quite undeservingly. He decided to toil harder than before. And then, the match against Punjab happened. When he reached the three-figure mark, there were no wild celebrations, none of the theatrics so often coupled with him. Just a look towards the sky and a thump in the air, as Ashish Nehra, who had tried courageously to deny him the century, rushed to his former captain, a man who backed him through all thick and thin, and congratulated him, as the rest of the North team followed suit. Outside the dressing room, national selectors Venkatpathy Raju and Ranjib Biswal stood up and commended, flashing the thumbs up sign - a sign that ascertained his return. The implication of the moment was an easy one. With Yuvraj Singh not available and the Indian batting floundering match after match, Ganguly, vastly experienced, had staked his claim for a recall. Ganguly had just taken a giant stride to retrieve his lost domain. During the tea break, both selectors came down the stairs to welcome Ganguly to the dressing room with open arms. It was hard not to imagine that they might have been welcoming him back to the Indian team. As always, his inclusion is again a unique one. His supporters are happy... and his detractors are happy too!! The logic? His supporters feel that their beloved "dada" is back!! He will score; he will amass runs; he will take wickets and catches; win matches for India and will Captain India to win the World Cup - a dream which we had so nice weaved a couple of years back but unfortunately, was rudely broken by the Giants of Cricket. His detractors, on the other hand, feel that he has been included in the team at a time when the whole team is under-performing. They just can not face the music when it comes to hard pitches - and Ganguly would be the soft duck - in any case, he succumbs to short-pitched deliveries and in deadly pitches like these - he would sure die quite ingloriously. Only time will tell who is correct and who is not. Ganguly's gritty knock of 83 against Rest of SA (his first international match after a 10 month layoff) is some proof of the old wine tasting almost the same. His future knocks in SA will decide his fate in the Indian team. Whether you like him or not, whether he makes it back to the national team with huge scores or not; whether he consistently repeats this performance or not - you just can't help admire that steely determination of his. My point is simple - Team India needs Ganguly for a different tangent, altogether. Team India does not need Ganguly exclusively for performance per se - whether as a batsman or a Captain. Team India needs its Prince for settling down of the whole team - the team gets an unmentionable ease with him around. With him around, the shoulders are suddenly erect; the stances are sharp and the attitude focused. Team India needs the morale and solace and comfort that they get from Ganguly. Come on folks, its time we see the spring in their feet, the cracking cover drives from their bats and the Blue huddle in the middle. And off course, let us also see them lift the World Cup again.

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