Truth be told, i was not a fan of Sourav Ganguly right from the day he broke into the scene. Granted he scored a century in his debut test, but Mohammed Azharuddin also did the same ( not a great fan of Azharuddin either). I remember in school, that particular Biology class, when i got a “re-do” for lab-work, for saying Dravid was a better batsman than Ganguly. Neither did i get any sympathy from my classmates who thought i definitely had hormonal problems.
All the while i was playing sceptic, Ganguly kept on hitting Muralidharan out of the park, and taking Pakistan to the laundry. Toronto, Tauntan, Trent Bridge, Ganguly shone, like no Indian left-hander before him, marauding the offside fence with sublime stroke play. He was silent and crafty, like a carpenter, grafting runs, and creating sculptures of willow and will. He was brilliant that time, possibly at par with the best, but so was Sachin, so was Dravid, so was Javagal Srinath, and Anil Kumble.
However, things, by virtue of its being, had to change. Ganguly became captain. Thus began his crusade-like journey at changing the way cricket is played today. India then, heavy dependent on the guns-of-Navarone bat of Sachin Tendulkar, could hardly muster enough guts or gumption to hold their own in the face of quality attack on a bouncy pitch. Things were to change. Rather Ganguly was to change them. He brought in arrogance and attitude to a seemingly maverick crop. Killer of zonal politics in selection, he ushered in talented younger players he believed in, and was not hesitant to make seniors sit out if it so deemed. He flew in Javagal Srinath out of retirement and made him sit out after the first rain-washed match in Sri Lanka, he made the hugely acclaimed bowler in Anil Kumble watch from the dressing room for he felt his best spinner was someone else. He gave the luxury of first-match-failures to his crop of young turks. Conviction. Right or wrong, Ganguly was a man who stood for what he believed in.
With time, however, Ganguly the idea, expanded beyond the 22 yards of clay. He became the face young India was looking for. Brilliant, brash and belligerent, he made the world take notice. Winning all over the world, he made sure if anything was lacking, it wasn’t self-esteem. Taking his shirt off at the mecca of cricket, or scoring 144 at a place where they could have dug his grave, or sitting out of a Test match for he detested the politics played by the ones in power, coming back from the dead like a messiah, he made statements on the field that was not enough to hold its own apologues. Millions loved him for doing what they never could do. Millions found a vicarious redemption in the way Sourav scripted his fairytale in the biggest stadia. Sourav Ganguly had walked on water, Sourav Ganguly had become an icon.
At a time, when he would soon he gone, questions are buzzing wild. Will be remain the culural icon that he is today? Will become a Bengali rhetoric, like greater heroes before him? Time is a cruel judge, history reverent and people forgetful. I dont care, for me, Ganguly will remain my teenage dream-god, who killed the sceptic in me, for once and for good.