11 November 2008

Sourav Ganguly

And so Sourav Ganguly has retired. The Spin would like to point out at this stage that not all English writers referred to him as Lord Snooty. In fact, some - including this one - actually quite liked the bloke, not least because he did not appear to pay any attention to what other people thought of him. But, hey, we couldn't let the moment pass without a misty-eyed look back at some of Ganguly's greatest hits...

1) India had not forgotten Andrew Flintoff's pecs-out rampage round the Wankhede a few months earlier when they completed a stunning two-wicket win chasing 326 in the final of the 2002 NatWest Series at Lord's. Watching from the balcony, Ganguly took his shirt off and yahooed it round his head like a tequila-sozzled mercenary. It was very funny - and very Ganguly.

2) During India's epic 2-1 home win over Steve Waugh's Australians in early 2001, Ganguly developed a habit of making Waugh wait at the toss, thus achieving outside the hours of play what few managed to do inside them: raise the temperature of the Iceman. Waugh pronounced himself "wound up" by Ganguly's "continued petulance" and, after muchconsideration, called him a "prick". Ganguly smiled to himself and got on with the business of winning a series.

3) Ganguly was once batting with Mike Atherton during his stint with Lancashire in 2000 when, in between overs, he regally summoned Athers to his end. Expecting to gain some valuable insight into the quality of the bowling or the nature of the pitch, Atherton was surprised to be handed Ganguly's sweater instead. Ganguly may not have said"dispose of this, my good man," but he probably wasn't far away.

4) Arriving in New Zealand for India's ill-fated visit in 2002-03, Ganguly and his entourage (wife, child, maid) whizzed through customs ahead of the rest of India's tour party and allegedly commandeered the team bus to take them directly to their hotel without waiting for anyone else. Well, he was the captain.

5) After India's left-arm swing bowler Ashish Nehra was given the new ball against Namibia during the 2003 World Cup, he retired with figures of 0.1-0-0-0 courtesy of a twisted ankle. Asked later why he had opened with Nehra, Ganguly was straight to the point. "We wanted to see what Ashish did with the new ball," he said. "We found out that he falls over."

6) India were 1-0 down at home to Australia in 2004-05 when the teams travelled to Nagpur for the third Test. Ganguly asked the groundsman to remove the grass from the wicket, only to be presented with a greentop that prompted the umpire David Shepherd to chuckle "Looks like home, don't it?" With immaculate timing, Ganguly developed a groin problem "at the very last minute", according to his coach John Wright. India lost by 342 runs.

7) In 2006 Ganguly turned out for Northamptonshire. It quickly became apparent that he had left his best form somewhere in the Bay of Bengal, and Jason Brown - Northamptonshire's off-spinning rabbit - was persuaded to strike a bet with team-mates about who would average more. Ganguly's championship scores during his brief stint were 2, 0, 6, 2, 5* and 9: a total of 19 runs at 3.80. Brown (80 runs at 6.66) won his bet.

8) After India had lost in the final of the 2001 Coca-Cola Cup to Sri Lanka in Colombo - their eighth successive one-day final defeat - Ganguly was summoned to see the match referee Cammie Smith, who felt he had verbally abused a Sri Lankan batsman. But rumours of Ganguly's unpopularity must be exaggerated: not one person, including the Sri Lankans, would testify against him. Cordial relations were regarded as more important than stuffing Sourav. The Sri Lankans "played the game," remembers Wright, "and pulled the rug out from beneath Smith's feet."

9) You must have heard the one about the time Ganguly scored a 50 for Lancashire, turned round to salute his adoring team-mates on the balcony and then discovered they were all inside the dressing room doing more important things like cutting their toenails. Here's how Flintoff summed up the dynamic: "It's a struggle with him. He wasn't interested in the other players and it became a situation where it was 10 players and Ganguly. He turned up as if he was royalty - it was like having Prince Charles on your side."

10) Ganguly falls out monumentally with Greg Chappell, Wright's replacement as India coach. One report suggests Chappell's messages to Ganguly out in the middle, urging him to speed up his batting, were routinely ignored. He is dropped from the side in 2006, but - amid widespread outrage - returns soon after. A year later he makes 239 against Pakistan at Bangalore. Post-Chappell, Ganguly averages 46, four more than his career figure. You've got to hand it to him. And you've got to admit: we'll miss him.
- Lawrence Booth, The Spin, 11 November 2008

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