I love Dada.
I have always loved him. The day when he took his shirt off and waved it in front of the proud English crowd; the day when the Indian team was unable to convert a world cup final match into a win; the day when Australia’s streak of 16 continuous Test wins was broken; the day when he scored 10,000 runs in ODIs; whatever be his achievements or failures, I have always loved him.
Now, some say that he is great because he started with a crowd of new and unpolished players and forged them into a team. Some say he is great because of the win percentage. Some say he is great because he was an inspirational player. I concur with all of them but do not specifically appreciate him because of these qualities.
I appreciate him because of what he stood for. His unperturbed demeanour and his will to fight for respect.
India was an underdog team during the nineties. And unsurprisingly, that’s how our country was economically, socially and nationally. The common man of the nation was analogous to the common team called India in the cricket world. Both were just clinging on to the belief of a surge in their class and confidence. Teams like Australia and South Africa were far from reach, and we were only at the mercy of GOD (you know who). Pakistan was the arch-rival and sometimes too overpowering. Almost the same analogy befitted the stature of the nations too.
But the early 2000s was the time of change. The win in Kargil war had just boosted the national confidence and security in terms of military advantage. The change of millennium ended in ousting some old players from the team and crowning Saurav Ganguly as the captain.
Things started changing in parallel. The dialogues which were submissive in nature started changing into assertive and confident ones. Saurav was not the typical captain. Sometimes aggressive, sometimes mellow, he just knew how to stand for his team and his nation.
I remember there was a match between India and Pakistan and a player from Pakistan was taking frequent breaks for energy drinks in the light of an injury. Dada could not stand this behaviour and thwarted him in his own gritty tone. He was the same Ganguly who stood against Steve Waugh, Andrew Flintoff, Shaun Pollock or Wasim Akram. He never compromised.
People paid attention to that. He not only earned respect from his fellow teammates, but he also changed the attitude of other teams towards ours. The new team of youngsters like Kaif, Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Zaheer, Sehwag; the team he built had self-respect and confidence and yes, ‘coolness’ to their otherwise chaotic demeanour. The economic change and the gradual upliftment of the nation in the 2000s was the perfect analogy on the international platform.
He never compromised when his career was down. His flapping eyelids never brought down the striving shimmer in his eyes. He struggled in counties but still came back with extravagant displays of batting in 2007. His tiff with Chappell never let his spirits down, and neither did his somewhat unsuccessful stint with IPL. I have never seen a dull Ganguly. Not even today when Ravi Shastri asks wittingly whether there is a stand named after Ganguly in Eden Gardens. He replies with an assertion, “The whole stadium is mine, Ravi.”
People often compare Dhoni with Dada. Why would you do that? Both are two different people with two different backgrounds, two different era of teams and two different approaches to the game. Dhoni has a story of his own and one should never eat into the other’s glory. Never.
From the day you knocked a ton on your Test debut at Lords to the day when Sachin was moved to tears on your retirement, until today when you honour us with your valuable commentary, you have made us proud Dada.
Happy Birthday to the legend! 🙂