Sachin Tendulkar couldn’t do it.
Sir Sunny Gavaskar seemingly hardly ever tried. Dravid was too docile much like Kallis, a bit too quiet, to ever indulge.
There are certain things that only the unquiet ones are able to manage.
Monk-like silence doesn’t suit everybody.
It didn’t suit Sourav Ganguly. Not one bit.
The man responsible for the transformation of Indian cricket was neither a garrulous talker nor a practitioner of old-fashioned quaintness.
Sourav Ganguly hung up his boots 4 years prior to Dravid and, 5 years before Tendulkar did.
But there was no swansong moment for Sourav. He was perhaps the only real Indian cricketer who personified what it meant to fight fire with fire, practising a feisty literary prose for real.
Calcutta- then a rather simpler metropolitan city sans the cosmopolitan facelift lent by Kolkata of today- didn’t come to a halt.
Harsha didn’t have a lump in his throat. Sir Sunny didn’t pen a special column.
Eden Gardens didn’t stage any fireworks.
Nor did West Bengal declare a holiday to observe silence as the arguably the finest marshall of Indian cricket exited.
You didn’t see fans tearing their shirts in dismay.
It was sweet. It was simple but sombre.
Starting his journey at Lord’s, ending it at Nagpur- Ganguly personified one thing and one thing alone.
Aggresive intent, thy name was Sourav Ganguly
In 2008, Saurav had already become ‘a former player.’
But all that he had achieved, the runs, the ostentatious takedown of bowlers, the taking his shirt off at Lord’s gallery, the warmth extended by wrapping his arms around a Sehwag, Zaheer, Dravid and Laxman, whether taking a blinder in the outfield or that punch off the gloves to the man at the other end- Ganguly personified emotion.
And lest it is forgotten, true fighting spirit.
You live by the sword, you die by it.
Just that when Ganguly sworded his opponents, the hurt was gentle.
And the pillaging of opponents appeared sweeter.
It seemed, there was an assassin who’d rush to his vanquished with a healing balm.
The high back-lift, the giant stride forward, the pure timing and, the sheer craft of lunging forward into that cover and square drive.
Saurav Ganguly combined the attacking instincts of a Brian Lara and the grace of David Gower.
It was elegant. It was ethereal. And more often than not, it earned India handsome starts and what was then, in the heydays of the 90s a luxurious run-rate of going 6-an over.
Few disagreed with ‘The Wall’ when he anointed a moniker aptly summarising his friend, captain.
Who else but S0urav could have been the ‘Lord of the off-side’
But like every great player, Saurav too had his follies.
He wasn’t a master of the short ball. They all targetted him there, at the rib cage. Shoaib came hard at him. Lee didn’t budge. Nor did the likes of Donald or Klusener.
But Ganguly often replied sedately by nudging around for a single.
Even in that apparent moment of discomfort, he taught us a valuable lesson.
Not every ball is there to be hit
Probably, a Sehwag may smilingly disagree with the notion. But there were things that Saurav did arguably more effectively and consistently well than few others in the modern game.
In a country obsessed with pop culture and music, it ought to be said, one may never have learnt the meaning of the phrase- dancing down the track- had Sourav Chandidas Ganguly not mastered it.
Whether it was the ODI career-best 183 or the eventual double hundred (239), the pitch very often became his stage and Ganguly, the dancer.
Fielders were spectators as catching practice went to those in the stands.
So implicit or inseparable- call it what you may- was this element to Dada’s batting, that even if one were to close the eyes now and reminisce Saurav, the image of the left-hander dancing down the track, lifting spinners and pacers (for in his world, it didn’t matter) might appear in the minds.
Can you think of another cricketer who’s as revered for his instincts or personality as for his exploits with the bat?
Lara essayed all his personality into his belligerent hundreds. Tendulkar delves in the shadow of his 100 hundreds. Kallis, even to this day appears immovable as the force behind those fighting knocks.
But Ganguly is remembered for both his explosive hundreds at the top of the order and for imparting a very authentic, unadulterated character into his team.
If the Indian cricket of the mid-nineties into the early 2000s had a character, then Ganguly shaped it.
He spiked in those sedate veins a pump of the adrenaline.
He was every bit giving to his team as he was to bowlers who practised verbatim in addition to a strict regimen with line and length.
Comparisons be damned, would it be spectacularly unfair to call Saurav Ganguly as the Steven Waugh equivalent of India?
And yet, a decade into his retirement, one’s not sure if he’s been credited for the change he brought about?
Virat Kohli was probably still looking for dates when Ganguly had begun chirping around everywhere, be it Adelaide, Lahore or Nottingham.
Sledging wasn’t what he advocated, Ganguly stood for providing a sledge back to the one received.
Sourav didn’t need blue streaks in the hair, or pumped chested walk to exhibit aggression. The double-blink of the eye and their very Clint Eastwood glint, supported by the rise of the brow were enough. He served delight in producing sixes towered over extra cover. Guess what, he didn’t have the burly frame of a Hayden or Afridi.
Kudos for all you achieved Dada.