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Sourav Ganguly: The Dada of Indian Cricket – A Journey of Triumph and Challenges

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On July 13, 2002, cricket aficionados witnessed a gripping finale in the NatWest series involving England, India captained by Sourav Ganguly, and Sri Lanka. In a showcase of true championship spirit, England’s Marcus Trescothick and Captain Vaughan marked their names on the scorecard with double centuries, propelling England to an imposing total of 325 for the loss of five wickets. During that era, achieving 300 runs in an ODI was remarkable. This achievement for a subcontinent team playing on English soil was even more impressive. However, history was about to take an unexpected turn.

A Game-Changing Partnership and Exuberant Celebration between Sourav Ganguly and Virendra Sehwag

A defining moment arrived when the Indian captain forged a dynamic opening partnership, amassing 106 runs in a mere 14 overs alongside Sehwag. Sehwag’s explosive debut saw him blaze through with a quickfire 60 off 43 balls before being dismissed. Despite a faltering middle order, India clinched victory by two wickets, owing much to Mohammad Kaif’s stellar innings.

Sourav Ganguly played one of the best knocks in Natwest Final
Sourav Ganguly of India walks off after being dismissed for 60 runs during the NatWest Series Final between England and India at Lord’s, London, 13th July 2002. India won by two wickets. (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Yet, the match etched itself into memory for another reason – the captain’s unbridled celebration upon securing victory. The iconic image of the Indian skipper swinging his jersey in the air after Kaif’s pivotal run in the final over remains vivid in the minds of cricket enthusiasts. The passionate leader behind this exuberance was none other than Sourav Ganguly, the former India captain.

Shaky Debut and the Path to Redemption

Ganguly’s journey began on shaky ground, with a turbulent international debut in 1992. At the tender age of 20, he was introduced to India’s ODI team, only to manage a mere 3 runs in his debut match against the West Indies. Yet, the true test lay ahead. Ostracized from the starting XI and subsequently dropped from the team after the third match, Ganguly faced allegations of arrogance and ill-treatment of seniors. His vehement denials couldn’t reopen the doors to the Indian cricket team, setting him on a four-year journey of relentless effort to redeem himself.

The Triumph of Resilience: Ganguly’s Debut at Lord’s

In the seasons of 1993-94 and 1994-95, Ganguly’s prolific run-scoring in consecutive Ranji Trophy campaigns earned him a place in the 1996 England tour. This journey led to his Test debut, sharing the limelight with another legendary cricketer, Rahul Dravid. Ganguly’s entry into the Test arena was nothing short of a fairy tale. Against England, a favored opponent, Ganguly made his mark. His splendid 131-run debut innings significantly contributed to India’s draw in the match. Subsequently, his brilliance continued, marked by a memorable 136-run innings at Trent Bridge, earning him his first Man of the Match award in Test cricket.

Sourav Ganguly ODI

Sourav Ganguly Emergence in ODIs and Versatility on Display

Sourav Ganguly foray into ODIs saw him struggle initially to deliver match-winning performances. However, 1997 marked the turning point as he scored his maiden ODI century – a resolute 113 against Sri Lanka. Despite the effort, the match ended in defeat. Redemption arrived in the Sahara Cup against Pakistan, where Ganguly’s versatile prowess shone. He secured the Man of the Match award in four consecutive games, showcasing his dual talents as a batsman and bowler, dismantling Pakistan’s formidable batting lineup.

World Cup Glory and Ascendancy to Captaincy

The subsequent year brought a forgettable World Cup for India but a memorable one for Ganguly. Partnering with Rahul Dravid, the duo scripted history with a monumental 318-run partnership against Sri Lanka. Ganguly’s unforgettable 183-run innings during that match remains etched as the third-highest individual score in World Cup history. This marked the prelude to Ganguly’s second phase in 2000, when he assumed the role of India’s captain. His aggressive captaincy took India to the ‘Knockout Trophy’ final, despite falling short of securing the title despite Ganguly’s top-scoring efforts.

Sourav Ganguly Captaincy Glories and Personal Triumphs

Under Ganguly’s leadership, India experienced unprecedented heights, reaching second place in ODI rankings and third in Tests. Amidst bilateral and tri-series events, Ganguly’s captaincy might have faltered at times, but his prowess shone in ICC tournaments. Despite personal successes in ODIs and his exceptional leadership during the 2003 World Cup, Team India couldn’t translate his brilliance into team victory. Ganguly’s consistency in ODIs secured him the number one ranking, although his Test form wavered.

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Challenges and Comebacks: Ganguly’s Rollercoaster Ride

Controversy accompanied Ganguly’s tenure as captain, with incidents like the toss controversy during Australia’s 2001 tour of India. The most iconic, however, was Ganguly’s spirited celebration at Lord’s, leading to fines and criticisms. Undeterred, he cited imitation of Flintoff’s gesture during England’s tour of India.

From 2004, Ganguly faced a prolonged slump, leading to his omission from the team in 2005. His return after a 10-month hiatus saw a triumphant comeback with a match-winning innings of 98 runs against the West Indies. His resurgence continued with successful tours of the West Indies and Sri Lanka, securing Man of the Series awards in both.

Ganguly

Legacy and Farewell

Ganguly’s inclusion in the 2006 Knockout Trophy didn’t yield desired results, as India’s team faltered and was eliminated in the group stage. Yet, Ganguly’s personal performance remained stellar. He played a pivotal role in India’s historic Test victory in South Africa, emerging as the highest run-scorer despite the series loss.

Ganguly’s peak in 2007 showcased his brilliance, amassing runs in both Tests and ODIs. He played his last ODI on November 15, 2007, marking the end of an era. His retirement from Test cricket in October 2008 was marked by a final century and a valiant 85-run innings. Ganguly’s captaincy legacy remains unmatched, steering India to remarkable heights. While his Test journey was marked by highs and lows, Ganguly’s legacy in ODIs remains unrivaled, solidifying his status as one of the greatest cricketing legends of all time.

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