The ‘Prince of Kolkata’ has turned a year older on 8 July. Former India captain Sourav Ganguly celebrates his 49th birthday today. He was, undoubtedly, one of the best the country ever produced. The current BCCI president scored 11363 ODI runs with 22 hundreds. In Tests, he amassed 7212 runs in 113 games. From a fearless approach with the bat and as captain to showing belief and injecting life into his team during tough situations, ‘Dada’ truly was gifted.
5 decisions of Sourav Ganguly as captain that changed Indian cricket forever
Ganguly sends VVS Laxman at No. 3 in Kolkata in 2001 against Australia
A part of Sourav Ganguly’s strength as a captain was him trusting his instincts. During the famous Kolkata Test against Australia in 2001, Laxman was the only batsman who looked comfortable. As India were asked to follow on on Day 3, Ganguly sprung up a surprise as he promoted Laxman ahead of Dravid and the rest is history. Both Laxman and Dravid batted through the day, with the former scoring 281 to set up an unlikely win for the hosts. On Day 5, the rest of the job was done by spinner Harbhajan Singh. India, with that famous triumph, snapped Australia’s 16-match winning streak and won the series 2-1 after winning the final Test in Chennai.
Turning Virender Sehwag an opener
Virender Sehwag did not start out as an opener. He was a middle-order batsman and when he smashed a century against South Africa on Test debut, he had batted at No.6. However, Ganguly’s penchant for seeing the unusual got him thinking again, and eventually, he asked the right-hander to open the innings. The results thereafter proved that Ganguly had indeed struck gold. With an average close to 50 and two triple tons to his name, Sehwag became one of India’s most successful Test openers and contributed to many Indian victories, especially overseas.
Convincing Dravid to keep wickets
For the majority of his career, ‘Dada’ did not have MS Dhoni at his disposal. Ganguly’s quest for finding a regular wicketkeeper, however, finally ended when he asked Rahul Dravid to don the wicketkeeping gloves to increase the balance of the side. Dravid was initially reluctant but he soon grew into the role by obeying his skipper’s wish and ended up becoming a reliable figure at the back. Not only did Ganguly find the right man for the job but he played an extra batsman between 2002 and 2004. Dravid was pushed to No.5 and he ended up playing some of his best ODI knocks in that position.
Another masterstroke that Ganguly played was picking a young MS Dhoni into the national side after just one successful India A series in Kenya. The selection surprised everyone but that wasn’t the end of out-of-nowhere decisions. When Dhoni failed to click with the bat initially, Ganguly decided to promote the Jharkhand-born batsman at No.3. Dhoni hammered 148 during an ODI in 2005 against Pakistan and Vizag and since then, he looked onward and upward.
Injecting self-belief into youngsters and team, making them believe they could win abroad
The likes of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, MS Dhoni all became players they did under Ganguly’s leadership. Ganguly’s grit and determination is something that is still talked about to date. He built the team from scratch, elevating it level it should have been at originally but wasn’t due to the 2000 match-fixing scandals. Ganguly injected self-belief into the team and convinced them that they could win anywhere. Ganguly’s overseas record of 11 away wins in 28 Tests the second-best after Virat Kohli bears testament to the progress the country made under him.