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The Warrior Prince - A fanatic's Eulogy


Some said that he can’t play the rising ball, while others said his attitude was like a Maharaja, but what cannot be denied is the fact that he entertained cricket fans worldwide for more than a decade and a half. Yes the one and only Saurav Ganguly. A natural right hander, he was forced to switch to left handed batting just because he used his brother's kit (who is a left hander) and what a transformation it was. 
His batting can be described as poetry in motion, a vision very similar to that of Bishen Bedi bowling left arm spin or Jonty Rhodes fielding. Put aside everything else, his most vital contribution to Indian cricket was his captaincy. He took over the reins of the Indian cricket team, when the team was at its ebb and they used to depend on one man, the batting god Sachin Tendulkar. What he did was to pluck a few talented youngsters from the Ranji Trophy, persisted with them despite their initial failures and built a team capable of beating the top notch sides on their day. What stands out is that the core of the current team Sehwag, Yuvi, Bhajji, and Zak were all groomed by the warrior prince. Their respect for their captain shone when Saurav was dropped from the side and they protested that. 
Not that Saurav was a Mike Brearley, playing in the side merely as a captain. He has made 10,0000 runs in ODIs and 8000 odd runs in Test cricket. He put too much burden on himself as a captain and that is where Ganguly the batsman got affected.  When he was selected to play the Test in England in 1996 many termed his selection as a quota system and he was deemed to fail. But he silenced his critics with a spell binding century with his characteristic off side play. How many ever fielders you put in the offside he pierced the gaps with surgical precision. When a man of a few words like Rahul Dravid described him as "On the off side first there is god, then there is Saurav Ganguly”, those words came out of pure admiration for his colleague. His first five years of batting were smooth, he unleashed his off drives at will, lofted the spinners out of the park with ease and made some useful contributions with his handy medium pace. After that he was figured out. His edges to slips and gully became a common thing. Suddenly he found more and more short pitched deliveries coming at his body. Still time to time he would play a fantastic innings, like the fighter's innings of 144 in Brisbane, which instrumental in India standing toe to toe with Australia. 
Even during his not so prolific phase, his place in the side was never questioned as runs came from the willows of Sachin, Yuvi, Viru, VVS and Dravid. And he formed a great partnership with John Wright, India's first foreign coach. The ending of his tenure coincided with the downfall of Saurav. He was instrumental in bringing Greg Chappell as the coach, but their association never took off and ended with a bizarre leaked e-mail in Bulawayo in 2005. He was promptly dropped, his deputy Dravid was made the captain. And after his sacking, he went back to the Ranji, scored runs, tightened his technique and made the selectors to draft him back to the side. He came back to the side like a man with a mission. Scored hundreds in away pitches in South Africa, dropped his flair and adopted more of an anchor role to allow the more flamboyant batsmen play their shots. The phoenix had risen from the ashes. From Ganguly the shot maker, he moved into Ganguly the accumulator, a similar transformation has been made by Sachin and Dhoni in recent years. And till the day he announced his retirement he scored more runs than any other player in the side. His decision to retire during the Nagpur Test, against Australia was questioned by many, as runs were flowing freely. But he had made his mind and decided to leave the spot to a budding young batsman. 

He taught the team, not to get bogged down during hard times and instilled the belief of winning on away tours. Some of his acts, like making Steve Waugh wait for the toss and twirling his shirt after the Natwest Trophy Finals are now a part of the folklore, These showed the world the new Team India. He made his fair share of mistakes, got stuck in controversies, but he showed us what left handed batting is and what it takes to be a great leader. Each and every word in this article is a dedication to the one of the legends of the game from one among his many, humble fanatics

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