Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Tribute to the Prince


For all his abilities to outthink and at times irk the opposition into submission with his outstanding leadership skills, I will always remember Sourav Ganguly for his extraordinary stroke play on the offside. Those cover drives are a thing of beauty and in the modern era no man has executed the stroke with as much class and authority as Ganguly has. Indeed, there are so many facets to Ganguly’s character and cricketing skills that it becomes difficult to pinpoint one distinguishing feature of his that will be truly missed now that he has left international cricket. The aggressive captaincy, the gorgeous cover drives, the audacious strokes into the stands played against the spinners with the greatest of disdain, the shirt stripping retort to Andrew Flintoff at the Mecca of cricket, forcing Steve Waugh to wait at the toss and the insistence on doing things on his own terms are all aspects of Ganguly’s personality and cricketing abilities that made him so very special. But, the drives on the offside being so very inimitable and unique in both their execution and their elegance have always stood out.

Sourav has always been a fabulous player of spin bowling and he has been particularly severe on left arm orthodox spinners, which probably explains his dislike in having a spinner of the said variety in his own eleven. Ganguly was a master at coming down the track and clearing the long-on boundary when faced with slow bowling that turned into him. I still vividly remember a shot that he played of Chris Harris at the ICC Champions Trophy final at Nairobi. He came down the track to hoick Harris in typically domineering fashion and Geoffrey Boycott who was commentating at that time said ‘out’ and waited for a couple of seconds before following it up with ‘out of the ground’. Only the sheer grandeur and grace of his drives on the offside give it the slightest of edges over the imperious lofted shots played against the spinners. Ganguly’s timing is second to none and every time I have seen him from the stands, I have been awestruck by his ability to strike boundaries with the utmost of ease. Very often it would only be a gentle push, but the ball would pierce the cover point and cover fielders with the precision of a skilled marksman and race to the boundary at a rate of knots.

As a one day international batsman, Ganguly’s presence amongst the greatest is in no doubt. Apart from having shared inarguably the most supreme opening partnership with Sachin Tendulkar, Ganguly notched up more than eleven thousand runs at an average of forty one which saw him amass twenty two magnificent centuries. As a test batsman, Ganguly’s record is the least impressive amongst the so called ‘fab four’. But Ganguly is one of those batsmen who cannot be judged on their records alone and his contributions in several important Indian victories are evidence of his fantastic inspirational abilities. India invariably seemed to do well when Ganguly scored which is proved by the fact that India have never lost a test match in which Ganguly had scored a ton. The fighting century at Brisbane, the half centuries against South Africa at Johannesburg and Kanpur under treacherous conditions have all been particularly special considering the circumstances and the nature of the opposition. Irrespective of the situation though, Ganguly never lost his sense of style and his batting was always pleasing on the eye.

Whilst his batting has been all about prettiness and splendour, save the handling of balls directed at his rib cage, his captaincy has been one of confidence and swagger. Ganguly might not go down in the annals of history as the most intuitive and tactically brilliant captain, but he will certainly go down as someone who had inspired his team to a form of success which was hitherto unknown to them. Playing at home on dustbowls with Anil Kumble in the eleven had never been anything more than a walk in the park for the Indian cricket team. Ganguly’s greatest contribution as captain was making the team believe that success away from home was not as difficult as it seemed and that with the right attitude and adequate effort it was certainly attainable. Ganguly stirred and stimulated the team into action and the Indian fans finally got to experience the joy of competing away from home at more regular intervals. With M.S. Dhoni showing superb tactical acumen and a Ganguly like ability to motivate and marshal the troops to excellence, we can be certain that India have found the right captain to take it to the next level. But getting to witness a batsman so attractive and stylish in his offside stroke play ever again is as unlikely an event as the Don’s batting average being surpassed.

3 comments:

Rahul Saha said...

Nice post. Its nice how Ganguly's off drives blended with part of his charechter. He was lazy. Didn't believe in all this modern fitness nonsense and his off drives seemed to personify that with thier gentle elegance and lack of rush.

A Couch-side View said...

Yeah. Remember the time when we went to the Eden Gardens and he came straight from home and batted at the nets when all the others were involved in fielding and other such drills?

Rahul Saha said...

Ya man. thot id include it in my post but words cant describe the lazy way in which he turned up late, lazed in , scored a century and went back for ghar ka khana.