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IPL, a chink in Ganguly's armour

Last updated on 19 May 2020 | 01:54 AM
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IPL, a chink in Ganguly's armour

On this day, the former Indian captain played his last IPL game

Sourav Ganguly was past his prime when Kolkata Knight Riders named him as their icon player ahead of the first edition of the Indian Premier League. The Prince of Calcutta had already played his last One-Day International and in 2008, after a home Test series against Australia, he announced his retirement from international cricket. The elegant left-hander never got the hang of T20 cricket and couldn't replicate his international success at the IPL.

His IPL journey started with his home-based franchise and ended with the now-defunct Pune Warriors on this very day in 2012. He led Kolkata in the very first IPL game against Royal Challengers Bangalore and opened the innings with Brendon McCullum. Ganguly was dismissed for just 10 but his opening partner had a night to remember. The wicketkeeper-batsman from New Zealand clobbered 158* off 73 and put IPL on the map. Kolkata won the encounter by 140 runs and then got the better of Deccan Chargers in their second match.

Ganguly failed in both the encounters but his team was off to a solid start. Everything was going well for Kolkata, but then came the downfall. They lost four matches in a row and that derailed their campaign. Ganguly himself had scores of 10, 14, 12 and 4 in the first four games and was operating at a strike rate of close to 60. He finally came to the party against Rajasthan Royals and scored a 39-ball 51 but it was still not enough as they lost the game by 45 runs. His first impactful knock came against Deccan in Hyderabad where he slammed 91 off 57, studded with 11 fours and five sixes.

He played a few more substantial knocks that season but couldn't lead his team to the playoffs as they finished sixth on the points table despite starting off well. Ganguly however finished the season on a high by crafting an unbeaten 53-ball 86 against Kings XI Punjab and helped his team chase down a target of 175. The Kolkata-based franchise dropped a bombshell next year as they removed Ganguly from the captaincy and replaced him with McCullum. The decision was questioned by everyone and it didn't end well for either Ganguly or the franchise.

Ganguly had a horrible season as he only managed 189 runs in 13 matches at an average of 17.18 and a strike rate of 91.3. He had the reputation of playing those big shots in international cricket but barring a few occasions, Ganguly failed to live up to the pace of T20 cricket. To his defence, Ganguly was in his late 30s and didn't have the same hand-eye coordination. In his glory days, Ganguly was superb against spinners and his IPL record against such bowlers aren't bad either. However, he only scored at 105.57 against spinners and his numbers against fast bowlers weren't great either.

Ganguly was once again given the captaincy in the third edition after Kolkata ended at the bottom in the second season. The coach John Buchanan was replaced by Dav Whatmore and Ganguly had his best IPL season as a batsman, but still couldn't inspire his team as Kolkata once again failed to make it to the playoffs. The left-handed batsman smashed four fifties and ended the season with 493 runs at an average of 37.92. He did well for himself but Ganguly was getting out-smarted and out-skilled as captain.

Kolkata fared poorly in the first three years and were the only franchise who didn't make it to the semi-finals. After failing to impress, the Kolkata franchise opted to let go of him next year and made Gautam Gambhir their captain. To make things worse, Ganguly went unsold in the auction and it looked like it was the end of the road for the veteran. However, Ganguly made a comeback after Pune Warriors signed him as a replacement for Ashish Nehra for the last few matches. He was also named as the vice-captain and featured in four games that season.

The franchise named him as captain-cum-mentor for IPL 2012, but there was no happy ending for Ganguly. The opening batsman scored runs at an average of just 17.87 and his team ended last on the points table, winning only four out of their 16 games. Despite achieving so much in international cricket as captain and player, Ganguly failed to make any impact in IPL. Ganguly knew his time was up and announced his retirement from the game after the 2012 edition.  

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