Missing Ganguly

(In response to an article on The Indian Express, October 14, 2008)

Who will replace Sourav Ganguly? For Indian cricket that question has mostly been about the key role he’s played as part of perhaps the best middle order in Test history. As he retires – with, we regret to admit, drastically diminished dominance of the offside – in this, his last series, the Australians have reminded us that Ganguly had other, non-cricketing, attributes that need an entirely different sort of successor. And in this he has found an able heir: Zaheer Khan. By the evidence of his post-Bangalore Test spat with Ricky Ponting, the fast bowler will keep stirring the Australian pot long as ably as Dada did.

Ganguly’s great skill in rattling the Australians was more than the stuff of cricket gossip. Ever since he kept the then Australia skipper, Steve Waugh, waiting for the toss in the 2000-2001 home series, a legend was born. The x-factor in Ganguly’s leadership to a new team driven by self-belief and aggressive professionalism stood identified. He looked his opponents in the eye, he steeled his charges into dismissing their opponents’ formidable reputations. He outdid Australia at their mind-games! Even now, watch how they look to Ganguly to account for their failure to seal the Bangalore Test. Having failed to take 20 Indian wickets, their media is holding Ganguly responsible for the draw, for taking a few minutes too many to return to the field after a short suspension in play for poor light – minutes, presumably, in which six Indian wickets could have been taken.

So, thank you, Australia, for this more than gentle reminder. Thank you, Ricky Ponting, for your absurd post-match comment that Australia were the only one “trying to take the game forward”, as if forcing a draw has not been an indication of a team’s Test skills. Thank you for recalling in this season of obsessive mourning about the Indian Fab Four’s impending departure that an Australia series will never be dull, even if the action on the field is inconclusive.

By Arunava Das