Often in sporting history, you see an age end and a new one begin. Fittingly, that's what happened today. India's most successful cricket captain, the talismanic Sourav Ganguly called it day -- and what a day to choose! India beat Australia convincingly in a test series with Ganguly reclaiming his captaincy one last time, for the last 5 overs of the match. To know that India is now in the hands of another "all-go, no quit" skipper like Dhoni, is a great symbol of how India's cricketing present models its more recent past.
I make no secret of my admiration for Ganguly -- he is my favorite cricketer and regardless of the unsavory remarks that Vengsarkar made about him sometime back, he remains a legend that towers over most of his critics - Vengsarkar included. My memories of watching Sourav date back to 1992 when he against the Windies and scored just 3 runs. Sourav's (now famous) offside drive fetched him his first couple in an international innings. Sourav was infamously dropped thereafter and left in the wilderness for four years, before he came back in 1996. Now 1996 was a great year in Indian sporting history. In the world cup just gone by, Sachin Tendulkar had become the leading run scorer, Leander Paes won us a tennis bronze and Sourav made a charmed debut with a century in his first innings. Being in Calcutta, home to both Paes and Sourav, I was obviously keen to get face to face with these new age celebrities. I was then the editor of my school magazine and I started to call Leander Paes's and Sourav Ganguly's residences asking for interview appointments. While getting through to Leader was easy, getting Sourav was equally difficult. I must have called him a dozen times, only to be greeted by his brother Snehashish each time. All I'd hear was "Sourav's at practice". And why shouldn't he have been! He was working to be part of one of the most destructive opening pairs in Cricket history. My interview with him was not to be and I caught my first glimpse of Sourav many years later at Test match with the West Indies which unfortunately ended in a tame draw.
I have fond memories of watching Sourav: as a fiesty opener in ODI's who scored 120 odd runs in one of India's first successful 300 plus run chases against Pakistan; as a new captain who rubbed South Africa's nose on the ground; as shirt waving Indian in Lords gallery; as a shrewd strategist that frustrated the Ice-man-Steve Waugh; as a wronged servant of the nation when he was dropped; as a player of tough character when he made one of the grittiest comebacks in Indian cricketing folklore; and as a gentle, outgoing senior statesman of the team when he retired today. Its difficult to express in words, the admiration I have for the man and the countless proud sporting moments he's made me privileged to have watched. India owes it to its ex-Captain Courageous for putting it on the overseas cricketing map. I hope we don't forget his contributions, each time we win abroad, each time we fight fire with fire and each time we win hearts for showing the stomach for a fight. As a fan, I bid Sourav farewell in the hope that I will see him back in cricket albeit in a different avatar. Thank you Sourav for your contributions. As a cricket lover, I owe you this tribute.