Wednesday, January 24, 2007

He came back, I never saw, but I ate my words

Most of us missed the telecast of Sunday’s India-West Indies game. Most of us in India had to depend on the media sources to soak in the developments of the match. The highlights of the day were flashed on news channels. The next days newspapers were more eagerly awaited than normal. The common big news was Sourav Ganguly’s emphatic innings of 98 on his ODI comeback after 15 months.

I was one of those who admired ‘Dada’ for what he was at the peak of the Ganguly era. However when he was dropped in November 2005 under controversial circumstances I found enough cricketing reasons – like Ganguly looking like an over-the-hill cricketer - not to join the cries of protest.

The treatment Ganguly got from his board and selectors around this time a year ago, however, was deplorable. The insensitive handling of a valuable performer and inspirational skipper beyond his prime irritated me no end.

But frankly I did not see him coming back. History suggests players having a hand-eye-reflex-talent based game that is not reliant on technique have a smaller shelf lives than their ‘correct counterparts’. The pattern of decline in Dada’s performances ever since that away series Down Under made me think, ‘there I see him nearing his end’.

No more did we see him step out and hit lofted drives against spinners and medium pacers. Even after getting ‘in’ he no more looked the batsman whose only possible downfall even against best bowling attacks could be poor shot selection.

We saw him succeed in South Africa last month. I was pleasantly surprised and happy for him. He showed he could still come up with his best when it was most required and make a few effective adjustments to the technique I so suspected to suit the variant conditions facing him in an away series.

But was it a great player declaring that he is still not past his prime, or a gritty aged player performing above his present abilities for pride? Frankly I could not be sure. The situations when Ganguly came in to bat in those three tests and the nature of pitches in that continent did not help matters either.

This Sunday they did. And Dada showed us ‘athiests’ [in Bengal I expect to be labelled likewise for not having kept faith on Dada] that he has indeed found his lost clock and turned it back by quite a few years.

I drank gulps of Sourav Ganguly's comeback to glory from the highlights packages of the Sunday match, and ate generous helpings of my own words.

PS: Not all aspects of that Sunday game were glorious for Indian supporters. This Times of India report underlines the continuing non- improvement in the Indian fielding efforts and the West Indian scorecard for the match backs it up. ‘Are we really ready for the World Cup’ must be a question worrying the Indian Team Management more than the West Indian Organisers of the apex event.

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