Sourav ‘Dada’ Ganguly has done it and seen it all. Be it fall outs with coaches or team owners, annoying opposition captains or being suspended by match referees, Dada has done it all. Not to forget that the man has scored over ten thousand runs in one-day cricket and been one of India’s most successful captains. However, there’s something about Dada that makes him so different from his contemporaries.
A century on Debut at Lords - Sourav Ganguly couldn’t have asked for a better entry into Test cricket. Neither could he have asked for a better ODI record. Along with Sachin Tendulkar, he formed one of the most formidable and successful opening partnerships in ODI history. But still there’s something about Dada that makes him so different – his attitude.
While most people have a problem with his attitude, there are others (which includes me) who appreciate his – ‘I don’t give a damn!’ attitude. It is his attitude that really changed the way New India approached life. And by New India, I am not limiting myself to only the Indian cricket team. He rubbed off a bit of his ‘Dadagiri’ on us, followers of Indian cricket. He showed us that we are no less than anybody else and did not have to be intimidated by anyone. On the other hand, he led the way in intimidating the so called bullies. I would like to mention a few instances which would help to substantiate my point. Firstly, the way he made Steve Waugh wait for the toss in a crucial Test match. Steve Waugh himself has admitted that it really put him off, exactly what the mighty Australians tried to do unto their opponents under the name of ‘gamesmanship’. There was widespread criticism that Dada disrespected the sanctity of the toss. Dada did not bother, he just went about things the way he wanted to and was successful in unsettling the Aussies.
The second, and by far the more popular incident, is the ‘striptease’ act on the famous Lords balcony. For those of you who do not remember, on one of England’s tour to India in a crucial ODI match, Andrew Flintoff got the final wicket which sealed the victory for the English team and on his follow through he removed his jersey and waved it ‘soccer-style’. Dada, not one to forget things easily, did exactly the same thing when India pulled off a miraculous victory in the Natwest Final against the hosts. The only difference being that this was done in the Home of Cricket, where members are allowed to enter only in suits. Also the expletives that flew from his mouth would have guaranteed an ‘A’ rating from the Censor Board. Again the critics said it was disrespectful of him, but Dada couldn’t care less. He felt humiliated when Flintoff did it and there was no way he would be satisfied without giving it back.
He is a legend of the game, the figures prove it. Yet, he has not always, if not never, been treated like a legend. There is already a lot written about the fall out with Greg Chappell and I do not wish to document it further. He was unceremoniously sacked from the team but still made a comeback and bowed out of international cricket on his own terms.
It was disheartening to see that none of the ten IPL teams chose to pick Dada. It is certainly not because of his cricketing talent, as we saw a lot of Indian cricketers with much lesser pedigree being bid for. It probably is a result of his ‘larger than life persona’ and owners are afraid that he will dominate them. How Kolkota is going to react to this, one can only wait and see. Kolkota without Dada is like Sholay without Amitabh Bachan, and it must be clear in our memory how the Indian team was booed at the Eden Gardens when they took on South Africa without their ‘Prince’.
I strongly feel that this is not the last we have heard of Dada, and I am forced to use the cliché – ‘Whether you love him or hate him, you just can’t ignore him!’