“Private victories precede public victories. You can not hope to invert the process any more than harvest a crop before planting it.”
Sunday morning at the Gabba, Sourav Ganguly was a man who had won himself, who had overcome his self doubts, who had got himself out of his own way.
When he swept MacGill just wide of the fine leg, Ganguly ran very hard to convert what was nothing more than an easy one by his and Laxman’s standards, into a couple to get to his hundred. He leapt twice in elation, almost tripped over, pumped the air, had arms aloft and without uttering a word told every Australian that he enjoyed the ‘sweet chin music’. That one ball just summed up Ganguly’s day. Urgent, emotional, doubtlessly decisive and arrogant to the core.
A rare mix of pride and humility, Ganguly, in his 11th ton, took us ten centuries back. On a cold day at Lord’s, when the ODI discard scored a century on test debut, he showed a lot of purpose, focus and cold belief that he could do it. And 10 centuries later, the Gabba saw the same self belief, disdain and application from the man most of Australia thought wouldn’t be able to stand up to the ‘chin music’.
Leave Australian media alone, Ganguly is the man most of India loves to hate. Why? Because he chews nails on the field. Because he doesn’t follow tradition. Because he wants to lead the side dictator style. Because he doesn’t give a sorry damn to what critics think. Because he wears his heart on his sleeve. Because he doesn’t take a step back when confronted. Because he takes his shirt off and flaunts it after an unbelievable win at Lord’s.
What I say is those critics and so called ‘purists’ can go have a walk because not in years has India had a captain whom everyone in the side could proverbially die for. He stands by them no matter what happens, and is returned the favour by the team which stands by their skipper through thick and thin. So why bother about the critics when Ganguly is one of the very few skippers India has had who are naturally aggressive, who back the youngsters and who, for a change, don’t take a step back when aroused verbally.
I have no doubts in my mind as to whom to credit for the development of Yuvraj, Sehwag, Kaif, Zaheer, Harbhajan and Nehra into players of international repute. Pick anyone of them up, they have been through rough times early in their careers but were backed to the core by their skipper and the results are for all to see.
If anything, Ganguly has been a susceptible batsman in Tests, a poor runner between the wickets and a disillusioned fielder when made to toil by the opposition’s batters. But I, for a long time, have maintained and believed that if he gets back into the majestic form he is renowned for, the two latter shortcomings will evaporate.
His weakness to the short ball is not a secret anymore. Bowlers around the world know he is not a complete batsman like Dravid and Sachin are. But he has got bigger strengths, majestic off side play and the arrogance that comes with it, strengths that can hide any weakness when in full flow. Queerly enough, whenever Sourav plays with a feeling that he’s supreme, he gets runs. Whenever he disrespects bowlers, he gets runs. Most of his ODI centuries have come when he has dismissed the bowling to trash bins. Therefore, it’s his own mind that he has to win and the bowlers will, more often than not, surrender. Like at the Gabba, he was focussed at the task, he was intend to make his bat do all the talking, and wanted to trash the Aussie bowling. And although his knock might not have won India a test match, India has dented both Australia’s pride and prejudice. With some luck from rain and a brave display earning India a draw (miracles barring), India goes to the Adelaide Oval, a very good batting track, with a lot of confidence and a moral victory.
He came in at a time when the only team who could win the test was Australia and at 60 odd for 3 with Sachin and Dravid gone, it seemed like a distinct possibility rather than a fantasy of a die hard Aussie fan. Right from the outset, Ganguly was a man possessed, a man with a purpose. The arrogance that one associates with the ‘Maharaja” was, all of a sudden, back. He dispatched all bowlers, except Gillespie, to the fence with utmost disdain. The resemblance to his first ton didn’t just lie in the off side play, it lied in the assurance and decisiveness he moved his feet with. One could see that he was out there to score a ton from his reaction when he reached his fifty- he soberly shook hands with Laxman and non-expansively raised his bat to the dressing room for a very brief moment and went back to work. Since then, he moved from strength to strength and the Australian media would have heard a completely different kind of music- the ball hitting the sweetest part of the bat and thudding into the fence, all so very quickly.
This innings should serve Australian media with a lesson that it’s their players on the field that win them matches and not their expansive criticism of opposition’s main players. But this so called ‘mental disintegration’ also has its beauty which makes a win Down Under even more special. Your writer also knows that India doesn’t have the bowling strength to win the test series so their media can relax for now. But such courageous shows, the kind Sourav put up at the Gabba, will give the media some ‘chin music’ and by God, that won’t be too sweet to listen to.