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Birthday Special: Captain of Captains – Dada..

At the time of your ODI debut, I didn’t even understand cricket very much. But in Tests you came, you saw and you won! You made your debut in a similar fashion. First Test match in life, that too at Lord’s and you scored a century. What more could anyone want? Even today, you still hold the record for most runs scored on debut at Lord’s. You did what even the god of batting could not do in the very first test. Not stopping at this, you scored a century in the next Test and showed that you are a ‘long race horse’. Even today, I vividly remember the mustachioed Sourav Ganguly’s greeting with both hands raised in the air on that tour.

When you took 5 for 16 against Pakistan in Toronto, your photo was in the paper the next day. That photo was in my scrapbook for many years. Sri Lanka’s trade with Dravid in England is still not forgotten. You were called the ‘king of the offside’. But I still love your sixes over the bowler’s head as he moves forward from the crease. Even today, I spend a long time watching the videos that come up on YouTube by searching ‘Ganguly Sixes’.

The captaincy of the Indian team is a crown of thorns. Even Kohli’s beard turned white within days of wearing this crown. But you wore this crown covered with the burden of expectations of crores of Indians (of course you also lost your hair.). You have done what your predecessors could not do. You instilled the belief in the team that the Indian team can win abroad as well and you showed it even abroad. You inculcated in the Indian team the attitude of replying to the opponent’s ‘aye’ with ‘ka re’. You were also criticized for such behavior. But you ignored it and continued to focus on your team’s performance. Stopping Steve Waugh’s winning wind of Australia, defeating Pakistan in Pakistan, all these achievements were done by India under your leadership. Harbhajan, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Zaheer, Kaif, who are famous today as legends, all the players know your debt even after all these years. You supported them by seeing their merit in their hopes. By doing this you proved that you yourself are not just a diamond but a jeweler who creates diamonds.

When you took your shirt off at Lord’s to express your joy, the entire media of the world criticized you. However, the Indian backers did not feel comfortable in it. In a few days it will be 16 years since that incident. Even today, I am sure that not a single Indian backer feels that your action was a mistake. In the World Cup that followed, India reached the final under your leadership. Even if we lost, many people still say that the foundation of the mighty Indian team that we see today started somewhere here.

You will probably be the first Indian player to go solo and recon the grounds in Australia before the series to improve his and the team’s performance. It was during Reiki that you became enthralled with Chappell’s style and eventually hired him as a coach. You had no idea that by doing this you are digging your own grave.

Your dispute with Chappell was widely publicized. You also lost your place in the team. You are not defeated though. You keep fighting. The thought of retirement has not crossed your mind. In the meantime, you had an advertisement. ‘Don’t forget me?’ Seeing Dada asking this, your supporters started to hope that you would make a comeback. A fighter by nature, Tu also made a strong comeback in 2007 scoring around 1100 in Tests and 1200 in ODIs. It was you who put an end to the questions of retirement that started then and announced that you will end your career against Australia.

You also scored a century in the last Test series. You showed that you are still ‘Dada’ by scoring 85 runs in the very last Test. In the second innings you got out for a wicket but no one seemed to care. Dhoni gave you the captaincy for a few overs to give your supporters a glimpse of your captaincy once again. Dhoni’s magnanimity was certainly admirable. Seeing you field guarding for the last time made many people upset.

Even after retirement, you kept yourself connected with cricket through cab. Cabala and Eden Gardens also won best performance and best ground awards under your leadership. Even after 10 years of your retirement, your name still comes up as a fighting general who is the envy of the Indian cricket team. Even if you are a commentator, the phrases ‘say anything, Ganguly was heavy’ are heard. While there is no doubt about Dhoni’s achievements, no one can deny that you were and will remain the true architect of this building that stands today. You were the captain who spread your bravery, fearlessness and confidence not only to yourself but also to the team. From here on many captains will come and go but ‘Dada’ will remain ‘Dada’ in the end. There is no doubt that Ganguly will be named as the ‘captain of captains’ in the history of Indian cricket.

Also Read-
A Cricketer’s Story Part 5: Replaced by his elder brother, he later became a grandpa
A cricket pitch to a large gym; Have you seen the 48-room 65-year-old Rajmahal of the ‘Prince of Kolkata’?

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