By Prabir Biswas
It is just a matter of time before former skipper of the Indian cricket team Sourav Ganguly becomes the president of the BCCI on October 23. It was just another of the many amazing comebacks that Ganguly has made in his career as a swashbuckling cricketer, a master batsmen and an able captain. In an intriguing turn of events, he was catapulted to become the favourite candidate for the prestigious post and filed his nomination papers without a challenge. Those who have followed the entire drama revolving the choice of candidate as BCCI president would vouch that he was nowhere in the race for the post till the last minute. No wonder he is known as the “king of comeback”.
Even as a cricketer, the path to success, fame and glory has not been easy for the 47-year-old cricketer. He took the flight for the first time as part of the Indian team for the tour of Australia way back in 1992 after a stupendous performance in domestic cricket. But his dismal performance against the West Indies on that tour shattered his dreams and all doors for national selection were closed for him. Had everything gone right for him, Ganguly could have played the World Cup in that same year. Ganguly had to wait for four long years before he was called again to do the honours for Indian cricket in England in 1996. He lapped it up and slammed a century at Lord’s and followed it up with another hundred in the next test. And that cemented his place in the Indian team.
Then came another challenge in 2000 when he was handed over the reins of the Indian team. He took over the reins when Indian cricket was going through a crisis and was enveloped in the match fixing scandal. He brought in epoch making changes as a captain by ending regional bias and instilling professionalism. The need to remain fit and agile as cricketers was also his contribution to Indian cricket. He instilled a sense of pride among players wearing the Indian cap and they started believing that they could conquer the world. He was a player’s captain and gelled a team together by bringing in fresh blood like Yuvraj, Kaif, Zaheer, Harbhajan, Nehra and Sehwag. With able assistance from stalwarts like Sachin, Dravid, Kumble and Srinath, Ganguly formed a combination of “go-getters” which played just for winning. And it was not just in India but in overseas matches as well. Indian team had earlier forgotten to win abroad and were considered as lions only in their own lair. He was the most successful test captain for India in overseas till Virat Kohli recently broke that record. The Test wins against England in Leeds in 2002 and against Australia in Adelaide Oval in 2003 and against Pakistan in Rawalpindi in 2004 are still memorable. Under his captaincy India reached the finals of the 2003 World Cup as well.
It was Ganguly who was instrumental in bringing Australian cricketer Greg Chappel as coach of Team India. It is a different matter that he went on to lose his place in the team only due to machiavellian machinations of Chappel and had to renew his struggle to get into the team.
Tremendous performance in Ranjit Trophy again compelled the India selectors to bring him back into the team in 2007. He made a significant 50 in his comeback test against South Africa in that country. Although India lost the test but Ganguly was the highest run-getter. He gained his entry into the one-day side as well. In both the one-day series against Sri Lanka and West Indies, he averaged close to 70 in batting. He even became Man of the Series against Sri Lanka.
India failed in the 2007 World Cup but Ganguly stood out with his performance. In that same year, he scored a double ton against Pakistan in Tests when it toured India. He finally retired after playing the series against Australia in 2008.
Ganguly had to face many unpleasant situations while playing in the IPL. After becoming the captain and star player of the Kolkata Knight Riders’ team, Ganguly was shunted out and went on to play for Pune Warriors. It has been six years since he is associated with cricket administration after he quit all forms of the game. The developments last Sunday showed that he continues to be the “King of comeback”.
Dada will have his task cut out in his ten-month tenure as the BCCI president. For, he will enter into a cooling period after that for three long years as per the Lodha reforms. He will need to revive India’s clout in ICC. The country does not even have an umpire in the ICC’s elite panel of umpires. It is good to hear that he is committed to the interests of first-class cricketers and toning up the system. For the promising talent only comes from that level.
Clearing the mess at BCCI, especially the finances, will not be easy for Maharaj. His man-management skills will once again be tested and he will have to manage not only cricketers but battle-hardened politicians with vested interests. There is already talk of his candidature being influenced by the BJP and with Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah slated to becoming secretary. The going could be challenging for dada. One only hopes that he lives up to his past reputation as the “king of comeback”.
—The author is a cricket enthusiast and works as Deputy Editor at India Legal magazine