A flamboyant left hander, one of the best batsmen in the limited version of the game and a Maharaj of Indian Cricket for a long time and that is Sourav Chandidas Ganguly. India required 227 to win at Belfast, the pitch was favouring the seam bowlers and Makhaya was simply hostile, the ball was heading towards the sky each time he ran into bowl, such was the pace and bounce he was extracting. A younger Sourav Ganguly when he was in his twenties would have just given it away, just poking outside the offstump without any aim and getting caught behind by the keeper, slips or anyone. Makhaya would have got an easy wicket. Nobody would have said anything to Dada and it would just continue, the big runs would come only when he wants to get them. But things have changed for the Maharaj. He is battling it out to save his pride, to help his team and in turn putting up a brave fight like any true soldier does for his country.
The chase in the Second One Day International wasn’t going to be that easy although the required run rate was just 4.54. There was no need of any blazing start but there was a need to keep the scoreboard busy to sustain the pressure on the fielding side. The scoring part was being taken care of by an aggressive Sachin Tendulkar, who was well under control of what he was doing, whether the attacking pulls or the risky flicks infront of the stumps having benefited from the 143 balls he had faced in the first ODI. So it was just a matter of staying at the wicket and supporting an in form Tendulkar for Sourav Ganguly.
Sourav started in his old fashion, just like in the first ODI feeling for deliveries that were slanting across. There was the desperation to get a few in the middle and he almost got himself out nicking on several occasions. But then the lessons were quickly learnt and a strategy was cooked up inside Dada’s brain. Just got to see Ntini and the new ball off and rotate the strike whenever possible. A few dot balls or a couple of maidens didn’t matter at all with the required run rate always being manageable. What was surprising was to watch Ganguly take a few calculated risks that paid off very well. A couple of them were smashing cover drives after backing away from the stumps to free the arms and take advantage of the angle created by Ntini from over the sticks. Anything outside the offstump is as much of a weakness as a strength for Sourav Ganguly. He isn’t a class act when the ball comes back off the seam to cramp him up for room. So the shot selection was important for Dada, he had to assess the difference between deliveries that could be smacked and deliveries that are better off to leave.
The good thing for a batsman in One Day Internationals is that any bowler at the max can bowl only 10 overs. So it was just matter of waiting for Ntini to finish up his first spell which was of 6 overs. The other bowlers barring Andre Nel weren’t that good enough to keep a lid on the batsmen. So it was an easy job for Ganguly having seen Ntini off which ensured that India didn’t give away any early wickets to the new ball. That could have been indeed disastrous. The lapse of concentration from Ganguly did come eventually but then 134 out of the 227 runs target were eaten away by the opening stand with Tendulkar. Ganguly’s contribution was 42 from 75 balls with three fours and a six straight down the ground off Tshabalala. That was a job more than half done for the Indians with the openers paving way for an easy task to be completed for the middle order. Rahul Dravid has been the crisis man for India, but in this match, he came out smiling with 93 runs to win with nine wickets standing and 131 balls left, he couldn’t have asked for anything better!
Ganguly’s knock for a common man would have been very boring. It would have been better only to watch the highlights that would have made Ganguly look better. But the southpaw knew what he was doing and the job entrusted on him was to keep one end firm or basically play the sheet anchor’s role. That’s what Ganguly has been doing off late, just batting on and on and at the same time not compensating on the strike rate in a big manner. He might be scoring at a slower rate which has been at just 72.44 ever since has comeback into the team which isn’t that bad, infact his strike rate overall in the 294 ODIs he has played is 73.69! So not much of a difference! The only difference is the consistency which he has brought into his game. Ever since his comeback, Sourav has got the runs at an average of 63.08, his career average stands at 41.68! So his comeback has been more of a boon for the Indians rather than a curse. Fortunately for the Indian fans, he has answered the questions raised over his selection with his bat! India had tried plenty of rookies at the top order during the Chappel tenure, but not a single bloke has cemented his place in the Indian side with the kind of consistently good scores notched up by Sourav.
With a place now secured in the Indian side, all the fans would be hoping that Ganguly will not fall a victim to any old complacency habits and keeps on working hard like a true soldier giving his best each innings.
Here is the list of what Ganguly has done as a batsman in the last 14 matches ever since he has made a comeback in the Indian team :
- 98 in 110 balls Vs WI at Nagpur
- 13 in 25 balls Vs WI at Cuttack
- 68 in 82 balls Vs WI at Vadodara
- DNB Vs SL at Kolkata
- 62 in 79 balls Vs SL at Rajkot
- 48 in 72 balls Vs SL at Margao
- 58* in 74 balls Vs SL at Vizag
- 66 in 129 balls VS BD at POS
- 89 in 114 balls Vs Ber at POS
- 7 in 23 balls Vs SL at POS
- 32 in 29 balls VS Africa at Bangalore
- 88 in 112 balls Vs Africa at Chennai
- 73* in 99 balls Vs Ire at Belfast
- 13 in 22 balls Vs SA at Belfast
- 42 in 75 balls Vs SA at Belfast
Dada’s Report Card ever since he has made a comeback in the Indian One Day Team
- Matches : 15
- Innings : 14
- Runs Scored : 757
- Balls faced : 1045
- Avg balls faced per innings: 74.64
- Batting Average : 63.08
- Strike Rate : 72.44