Sourav Ganguly retires after this Test match and a lot of Indians will be incredibly upset to see him go.
In other parts of the world, it might not be quite so apparent why he’s so popular. After all, he averages 42.17 in Tests, which is only ‘very decent’ by today’s standards, plus he says things like this about team mates:
“I knew that I would get back in the side as there were tough series coming up and some of the players coming through were too raw to make a mark.”
Not ‘I was the best’ but ‘everyone else was worse than me’. That isn’t the best example of his abrasiveness, it’s just something he said this week.
You have to look at his career slightly differently though. In England we always look at Test statistics and pretty much ignore one-day internationals. That’s where we’re going wrong with Ganguly.
He’s one of the greatest one-day openers of all time and together with Sachin Tendulkar was arguably one half of the very best one-day opening partnership there’s ever been. He’s hit 22 one-day hundreds and 72 fifties. That is no small achievement.
On top of that, he was a complete bastard of a captain when India needed just that. He helped turn them into a side who can win abroad and that might prove very significant indeed over the next few years. It might not, but let’s see.
First impressions count for a lot as well and he started his Test career with two hundreds in his first two innings – both against England. He also averaged over 50 after 30 Tests having scored seven of his 16 centuries in that period.
We always thought he was a bit of a prick, but only in a ‘that’s just what he’s like’ kind of way. We didn’t dislike him. We were just glad we didn’t have to share a changing room with him.
That would never have happened though. Even if we’d ever been good enough to play in the same side as Ganguly, he’d have had his own special changing room dotted with rubies and we’d have had to have changed underneath a towel on the outfield. He’d have had Pat Farhart and we’d have had a fat guy in the crowd telling us to stop whingeing.
Ganguly can look a bit duff at the crease at times, with his slight physique and his almost-crying facial expressions, but his doddery uncoordinated appearance is misleading. He can time a cricket ball, can Sourav.
During India’s last tour of England, the home team tried to cut off runs in his favourite area, just backward of square on the off side. They put three fielders there, all within about five metres of each other. It looked ludicrous. Most batsmen would have taken advantage of the gaps elsewhere. Not Ganguly.
Ganguly pig-headedly played it there anyway. And he did it successfully. He threaded balls between those three fielders again and again. He was basically playing the ball behind himself. To time a ball that well in that area is extraordinary and it was clearly no fluke.
Geoffrey Boycott laughed at the tactic. ‘You don’t bowl there to Ganguly. He’ll murder you all day.’
He didn’t. But he murdered them for a bit.