"I have always said about Ganguly, that he made India a tougher side”, praised the former England skipper Nasser Hussain appreciating one of the biggest counterparts during his playing days - ex-India captain, Sourav Ganguly.
Ganguly, taking over the captaincy during tumultuous times in Indian cricket emboldened the side to meet the opposition head-on. Hussain further explained himself in Star Sports’ show Cricket Connected, “Before Sourav they were just a nice bunch to play with, Sourav made them into a tough and determined side.”
In a side with its nucleus built around nice guys like Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar, Ganguly took the mantle to change the convention himself. He brought in youngsters to the side - Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Harbhajan Singh to name a few - who were supposed to be the proponents of his ‘in your face’ gameplay but even they needed a path to follow. Ganguly paved that way by setting examples with his aggressive style of captaincy and giving the opposition a taste of their own medicine when it came to sledging. The indelible impact Ganguly laid can be felt even today as the ‘Prince of Kolkata’ left a rich legacy behind him.
Here are five such incidents when the southpaw’s bravado was in full force (read Dadagiri) on the field:
#1 When he took Alec Stewart by surprise on debut
Ganguly’s first opportunity to show his audaciousness came on his Test debut itself. He walked out at Lord’s to take guard for the first time in Test cricket after a four-year long hiatus from international cricket. Moreover, the scoreboard read 25 for one as India had lost an early wicket when Ganguly arrived at three. It is no rocket-science that the then 22-year old must have been under immense pressure.
Alec Stewart in the opposition tried to take advantage of the situation. As described by Ganguly himself as a guest in a Star Sports’ show, Stewart went past him blaring, “The ball is moving and the young man is struggling. We will get him early.” Unflustered by Stewart’s words, he replied, “Hey, you have played your share of Test matches for your country. Now let me play my first one in peace.”
After standing up for himself, Ganguly stood up for the team scoring a hundred and marking the beginning of his career with a remarkable hundred at the Home of Cricket.
In another variation of the story, Alan Mullally, a left-arm medium-pacer representing England in that game, told a Bengali Magazine that Stewart wanted him to give Ganguly some chin-music. According to Mullally, Stewart screamed out loud from his fielding position, “Let’s give this boy a greeting! So what if it hits his face! I know you can do it, Alan”, loud enough to get his words into Ganguly’s ears.
Ganguly stared back at Stewart before replying, “Hello Mr. Stewart. You are a very respected cricketer. Now please keep quiet and let me make my debut."
Whichever of those two stories is true, it is certain that Ganguly let the England cricket team know that he was not the reticent Indian cricketer the world is used to.
#2 When he taught Russel Arnold a lesson
The 2002 Champions Trophy final between India and Sri Lanka saw Ganguly show instant abomination towards Russel Arnold running on the pitch.
In the 40th over of Sri Lanka’s innings, Arnold played a late cut and took a few steps down the ground before heading back to his crease. The wicketkeeper, Rahul Dravid who was keeping against Anil Kumble pointed it out asking the left-hander not to run on the pitch. Aware that Sri Lanka will be bowling second in the game with four spinners in their side including Muttiah Muralitharan, Ganguly intervened soon approaching the batsman from his fielding position at cover.
In response, Arnold did not let his guard down pointing a finger at the Indian captain. In what turned into a heated argument, umpire David Shepherd weighed in to separate the two. However, Ganguly ensured his words were well heard by both Arnold and the match officials.
(Video Credits: John G)
#3 The iconic shirt wave at Lord’s
Easily the most famous example of Ganguly’s aggression. As India pulled off a stunning victory in the Natwest final in 2002 at Lord’s, the Indian captain celebrated it by waving his jersey in the dressing room balcony.
Rajiv Shukla, India’s manager on the tour who was present with the team in the balcony during the victorious moments states that Ganguly wanted the whole team to follow suit. The others, including Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman politely declined the request. Ganguly, however, did not show a care in the world marking a memorable Indian win by swinging his shirt in the air. While Ganguly’s act induced polarized opinions amongst cricket experts, Hussain, the opposition captain recently approved of his antics. In a video interview for Sky Sports, Hussain remarked, “I admire Ganguly for doing that. That is what made him the captain he was.”
Ganguly’s shirt waving was a retort to Andrew Flintoff who had pulled off a similar act at the Wankhede Stadium in a tense series-levelling win for England earlier in the year.
During a commentary stint with Geoffrey Boycott, Ganguly was termed as a naughty boy by the former England batsman. Boycott asked him about his experience of taking his jersey off. Ganguly reminded his fellow commentator, “One of your boys also took off his jersey in Mumbai.” When Boycott tried to counter him with, “Lord’s is the Mecca of Cricket”, Ganguly ended the conversation with, “Lord’s is your Mecca, Wankhede is ours.”
Ganguly’s jersey became a part of history as it is currently placed as a memento in the Lord’s museum.
(Video Credits: England & Wales Cricket Board)
#4 When he asked the opposition to take note of the time
Like most captains, Ganguly was also no stranger to slow over-rates. The repercussions oscillated between deduction in match fee to something as severe as suspension from subsequent matches.
Meticulous about Pakistan’s approach in the second ODI in 2005, Ganguly gave an earful to Mohammad Yousuf (then Yousuf Youhana) when the Pakistan batsman sat on the ground complaining of a cramped hamstring.
An animated conversation between the two parties was audible on the stump mic in which the Indian captain did not let Yousuf any respite during his engendered break. Ganguly kept reminding the Pakistani batsman to “note the time” as the consequences of his break should not fall on Ganguly’s shoulders. As always, the Kolkata-born did not mince his words.
(Video Credits: Nishant Katoch)
#5 When he schooled a young Stuart Broad
This was an occasion when Ganguly’s response was not limited to just a verbal confrontation.
India made a decent start chasing England’s 316 in the do-or-die game at the Oval in 2007. After the last ball of the ninth over, Stuart Broad, aged 21 years then, had some words for Ganguly who did not take it light-heartedly. As he walked down the track for the customary end-of-the-over catch up with his batting partner, Tendulkar, he gave it back to the young paceman. Broad’s sheepish smile suggested he was taken aback by the reply from the other end. Umpire Aleem Dar mediated between the two to calm things down.
Ganguly, however, was not done yet. The next time he faced Broad, second ball of the pacer’s next over, the left-handed batsman creamed him over long-on for a six. 35 years old then, he reminded fans of his nonchalant strokeplay that helped him accrue over 10,000 runs in the format.
(Video Credits: SunSports289)