A New Innings: Sourav Ganguly Makes Yet Another Comeback

Unless any more drama unfolds, Sourav Ganguly is all set to be named the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) when the much-delayed annual general meeting takes place on 23 October in Mumbai.

All decks were cleared for Sourav’s new innings in an informal meeting among the various state associations and stakeholders in Mumbai on Sunday, but not before some late-night drama.

Earlier, Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) chief Rajat Sharma was tipped to be the next BCCI president. It was only on Saturday, when the former captain decided to throw his hat in the ring.

Despite his candidature, Sourav wasn't the first choice for the president post till late evening on Sunday. Another former Indian cricketer, Brijesh Patel, was the agreed pick.

But a last-minute turn of events, backing of former BCCI chief and Union minister of state Anurag Thakur tilted the balance in favour of the Cricket Association of Bengal chief. Thus, ensuring another late but successful comeback from the ‘God of the Off Side.’

A Forgettable Beginning

But the word ‘comeback’ is not new in Sourav’s dictionary. In fact, it has been the theme of his playing career.

Bengal had won the Ranji Trophy in 1991. And young Sourav had played his part in the triumph. The 19-year-old scored 394 runs in six outings and forced the national selectors to take notice of him.

Soon, Sourav earned his maiden India call-up. He was included in the squad for the limited-overs triangular series away in Australia during the 1991-92 series.

Unfortunately, his debut was anything but memorable. After warming the benches for the first five matches of the competition, Sourav finally got his opportunity against West Indies. He managed a 13-ball 3. He was dropped immediately.

Lord of Lords

For the next four years, Sourav continued his good work in the domestic circuit. Despite couple of good seasons with the bat, it was his 171 for East Zone in the 1995-96 Duleep Trophy that once again made the selectors sit back and take notice.

After a gap of four years, Sourav was once again part of the Indian squad for the tour of England in 1996.

Ahead of the Test series, Sourav played a solitary ODI but didn’t find a place in the team for the first Test.

It was only after Navjot Singh Sidhu decided not to be part of the Test series anymore, citing differences with captain Mohammad Azharuddin, that Sourav was included in the playing XI for the second Test at Lords. And as they say, the rest is history.

At 23, playing his debut Test, Sourav became the third batsman to strike a ton on debut at Lords. His 131, which included 20 boundaries, continues to be the highest score by a debutant in a Test at Lords.

In his very next innings in the third Test at Trent Bridge, Sourav scored 136 to join an elite list of batsmen who struck a ton in each of their first two innings. Apart from him, the list included West Indians Lawrence Rowe and Alvin Kallicharran.

The Prince of Calcutta had arrived. Critics were answered.

Dadagiri & Chappell-Era

At the onset of the new millennium, Indian cricket was left stranded, courtesy a match-fixing scandal.

Sachin Tendulkar was no longer available to lead the side. So, vice-captain Sourav was named the captain. And thus, began the transformation. Skipper Sourav was in action.

Team India started winning overseas. Sourav led his team to Test victories in Australia, England, West Indies, Zimbabwe and Pakistan. The Indian team went on to play in their second World Cup final in 2003.

Under Sourav, young cricketers and future stars – Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan – thrived and reached their full potential.

By 2004, Sourav had become India’s most successful Test captain. But, at the same time, Sourav-the batsman was being considered a spent force.

File picture of Greg Chappell and Sourav Ganguly.

After an ordinary 2004 and a poor 2005, it was becoming increasingly difficult for Sourav to justify his place in the squad. And it was around this time that he had his infamous spat with then coach Greg Chappell.

Reportedly, Chappell had emailed BCCI, stating that Sourav was “physically and mentally” unfit to lead India and that his “divide and rule” behaviour was damaging the team.

But the onslaught was not limited to Chappell alone; the knives were out. Not only the batsman, skipper Sourav was also under the scanner after the home series defeat against Pakistan. Calls for his sacking were the order of the day.

After five years at the helm, Sourav was removed as captain in November 2005. Soon after, he was dropped from the side as well.

Not the Final Comeback
FIle image of former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly.

After an exile of around 10 months, Sourav returned for a three-match series against South Africa in 2006. But his return to the national side wasn’t an easy one. He toiled hard in the domestic circuit to find his way back.

Ironically, Sourav replaced his protégé Yuvraj Singh in the side. Chappell was still at the helm but this time, the former captain decided to let his bat do the talking.

India went on to lose the Test series but Sourav completed a successful comeback to Test cricket. He topped the batting charts for India with 214 runs in six innings at an average of around 42.

A successful Test outing saw Sourav included in the ODI side after more than 15 months, for a home series against West Indies followed by Sri Lanka. He celebrated his ODI return with a 98 against West Indies in the 1st ODI itself. He finished both the series with an average of around 70.

Sourav went on to play in his third World Cup in 2007. The same year, in December, Sourav scored 239 against Pakistan to register his maiden double century.

In 2007, Sourav went on to score 1106 runs in Tests, including three centuries and four fifties, at an average of 61.44. He was the second highest run-scorer in Tests that year after Jacques Kallis. He also scored 1240 runs in ODIs at an average of 44.28.

Batsman Sourav was vindicated once again.

And now, with the BCCI top job within reach, Sourav finds himself at the cusp of a new innings after making yet another comeback.

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