On the off side there is God and then there is DADA, we will miss you DADA.
I am not a bong but I still prayed for your return in the team. I do not reside in Calcutta but I still treasure your innings played during the first test against Australia in Brisbane, when I was in class 9. I have all the newspaper cuttings of your photographs when you were at your peak and I was a kid. I was disappointed when you lost captaincy and you were not playing well, but somewhere in my heart I had the feeling that the Bengal tiger will pounce back and you did.
I, like most of the India, followed you dutifully and valued every shot that you played, your every move whether it was your cover drive on the off side when 7 fielders were in the ring, or when you used to walk down the pitch and hit sixes to destroy the economy of a bowler, or even when you used to bite your nails when the going used to get tough, every scene was as magical, as splendid as I could ever wish to see.
But change is life, it is inevitable and now as the IPL stint of KKR comes to an end, there is a buzz amongst cricket fans that you will not return for IPL 4, but you did reaffirm the other night that you will, and we are glad.
Here is an ode on the behalf of the youth of this country to the greatest captain India has ever produced.
Your flamboyance and never say die attitude gave us the assurity that we can beat any side on the planet and your brilliant captaincy proved it. Your T shirt waiving at the Lord’s balcony introduced us with a new confidence that eventually led us to the WC final. We are now the numero uno team in Test and the hold number 2 rank in ODIs, all thanks to you. Your leadership qualities ensured that we can break the shackles and remove the tagline bestowed upon us of “Lions at home and cubs abroad”. Let me take you through his journey that was full of ups and down.
Dada made his test debut in the year 1996 in England and hit a brilliant 131 in it. This century raised the debate that a legend has been born in Indian cricket and as the saying goes “puut k paw paalne mei hei dikh jaate hain” this phrase seems to be made for you as you made an important place in the Indian team in both the formats of the game within a year. During that period you and Sachin won many matches for India single handedly. Your 5 for 16 in Toronto and 183 at Taunton is an example of that brilliant achievement.
In 2000, the year when due to fixing charges Azhar, his deputy Jadeja and many big stars were suspended, it seemed as if Indian cricket had come to a halt but it was you, dada, who navigated the ship when conferred with captaincy.
You gave the Indian team aggression, belief, will power, killer instinct and self-confidence. You stopped the Aussies from winning the final frontier, you made the Lord’s balcony look as if we are at Eden gardens, you made us play the WC finals after 20 years, and again it was you who gave us a win in Pakistan in 2004. You gave the current superstars a chance to showcase their talent. You brought Yuvraj, Zaheer, Harbhajan, Sehwag and Dhoni into the limelight and in spite of their failures you continued with them.
But your fairy tale came to an end and you had to face your share of tough times as well. All of it started when due to an illness you backed out from playing against the Aussies in Nagpur. Eventually India lost the match and later the series. This gave your critics a chance to speak out against you and say that you are not athletic and cannot play bouncers and short pitched deliveries. Your lack of form and your fight with Chappell did collateral damage as you lost your place after a gritty innings in Karachi.
The whole of India protested so that you would return and get back your lost prestige but your critics wrote you off and were of the view that it was an end for Saurav Chandidas Ganguly. But being the fighter that you are, you did not give up and made a comeback by hitting some good knocks in the Ranji trophy. You were the highest run scorer in your second debut and played well in England as well. Your gritty innings in Bangalore was a treat to watch. You were not included in the CB series and eventually took retirement from the test in Nagpur in 2008 from where your downfall had started.
But Lalit Modi’s brain child gave us a reason to rejoice as you were an Icon Player of the Kolkata Knight Riders. You had your share of controversies here as well with your former coach at KKR. Your team played badly in IPL 1 and in IPL 2 it was the same story, but in IPL 3 you returned with your captaincy and made your team look good. But again luck was not on your side as despite your brilliant knocks your team could not make it into the semi finals.
Indian cricket will always miss you and will remember you as a warrior who gave teeth and mouth to the Indian cricketers, who were known as gentle men of the game. You will stand in the same league as Kapil Dev, Gavaskar, and Tendulkar. Your contribution towards Indian cricket is unprecedented. We will remember you as a man who is an off side god.
Thank you for providing us with great moments and taking Indian cricket to new heights. May you have a peaceful and a wonderful life post IPL!
The writer is a Sports Editor of Youth Ki Awaaz