Ganguly has done more for Indian cricket as captain (Profile)

November 10th, 2008 - 6:24 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 10 (IANS) Courageous, confident, comebacks, controversies. The list of attributes is endless as one goes through the glorious 12-year-long international career of Sourav Ganguly, who encouraged his teammates to stare the opposition down. Nagpur saw the last of Ganguly the cricketer Monday, the most successful Indian captain and the man of many comebacks.

The 36-year-old former Indian captain bid adieu to international cricket on his own terms, not giving his detractors an opportunity to hound him out, and that,too, when he was at his batting best — scoring a century in the Mohali Test and an 85 in the first innings of his last Test.

Ganguly’s exit was as glorious as his debut. In the summer of 1996 in England, he began his Test career scoring back-to-back centuries in the first two Tests and over the years his off-side play was such that Rahul Dravid praised him as the god on off-side. He combined grace with an aggression and could murder any attack on his day.

While speculation whether any voluntary retirement scheme was forced on Ganguly by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) or not will continue, there can be little doubt about his charisma as a batsman and his ingenuity as captain.

And he should have little regrets bowing out. Very few sporting heroes have enjoyed such public support, as Ganguly did in India, particularly in his home state West Bengal.

Statistics only confirm his stature as India’s most successful captain, but he has done much more to Indian cricket. His 21-13 win-loss record in 49 Tests, leading the country to the World Cup final in 2003 to boot, is truly impressive.

He has captained in 147 One-Day Internationals, and is in the exalted company of Sanath Jayasuriya and Sachin Tendulkar as the only players to complete the treble of 10,000 runs, 100 wickets and 100 catches.

But the greatness of Ganguly as a captain lay more in his approach to the game than in mere numbers. His killer instinct has endeared him to the fans. He will also be remembered for his combative style, raw passion and ability to pick and nurse potential cricketers.

His eye-for-eye approach and the mind games came to the fore in the 2001-02 home series against Australia that India won 2-1 to cut short the record run of Test wins by the Kangaroos.

The impact of Ganguly’s leadership on the series was such that his batting failures were not noticed. As Anil Kumble pointed out he has shown the Indian team how to win overseas. He led India to a rare Test and One-Day series wins in Pakistan and came close to winning the series in the 2003 series Down Under.

The abiding image of Ganguly’s batsmanship was his ability to step out and disdainfully dispatch the most formidable of bowlers for straight sixes. Despite having to face much criticism for what many called his weakness against the short-pitched stuff, Ganguly’s off-side mastery was universally acknowledged.

In all, Ganguly has scored 18,490 runs in both forms of the game, 7,127 of them came from 112 Tests at an average of 42.17, while in 311 limited-over internationals he averaged 41.02, scoring 11,363 runs.

Along with Tendulkar, he formed perhaps the best opening combination in the ODIs. The pair produced 6609 runs at an awesome average of nearly 50 per partnership in 136 innings. As a bowler, Ganguly’s slow medium-pace was more than useful, particularly in ODIs.

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