When Sourav Ganguly took over the Indian team, the Indian team was going through, what BBC’s calls, as the “Indian cricket’s darkest hour”.
Sourav Ganguly was a prolific run getter. He had an average of over 40 in both test and ODIs. Even though he was a great batsman, yet we generally remember him one of India’s greatest captains.
Here are some instances from his long tenure as a captain that proved why he was the captain India deserved and needed.
1. Made Dravid keep wickets in ODIs
It is considered as a tactical masterpiece today. The move was initially criticized by a section of fans and critics alike. After Nayan Mongia, India was going through a phase where they were unable to find a stable wicketkeeper. Ganguly knew that the strength of his team was batting and in order to beat major opponents India needed its strong batting lineup.
Often playing a specialist wicketkeeper meant sacrificing a batsman.
So Ganguly found a way of playing seven batsmen by asking Dravid to play as a wicket-keeper. Dravid had a decent experience as a wicketkeeper as did keep wickets for Karnataka occasionally and so when he was handed the job, Dravid did a more than decent job.
2. Made Sehwag open the innings
It was a decision that probably changed the fate of Indian Cricket forever.
Initially, Sehwag was a middle order batsman who could bowl occasional off-spin. Ganguly correctly predicted the aggressive batsman’s playing style was more suitable at the top of the order. Sehwag went on to become one of the most successful opening batsmen ever. The opening combination of Sehwag and Sachin spelled terror for most of the opponents.
3. Convinced Srinath to come out of retirement
Another very intelligent move by Sourav was to ask Srinath to come out of retirement and participate in the 2003 World Cup. Ganguly knew that without Srinath, the young Indian bowling attack lacked experience and Srinath was the perfect candidate to lead them.
Ganguly’s decision to ask Srinath to come out retirement worked wonders for the Indian team. The Indian bowling attack led by Srinath gave us a lot of memorable victories and guided the team to the finals.
4. Sent VVS Laxman in at number 3 during the famous 2001 Kolkata test
If you want to pinpoint that one decision that Sourav took as a captain that changed the fate of Indian cricket that it has been this decision.
IndiaN openers were dismissed after 50 runs partnership for the first time in the series.
Dravid was struggling a bit the in series and therefore Ganguly thought that it would be wise to promote Laxman who had a pretty decent series. This decision proved to be a masterstroke. Laxman went on to record the highest individual test score for an Indian in tests and along with Rahul Dravid, scripted one of the most famous victories in the history of Indian cricket.
5. Brought aggression into the Indian team and gave a Flintoff a fitting reply at Lords
Of all things Ganguly has done, the one thing he would be remembered for is bringing the much-needed aggression into the Indian team.
Under Ganguly, the Indian team became aggressive and competitive. When England came to India, Flintoff celebrated his team’s victory by taking his shirt off. Ganguly was not someone who would forget this act. So in the Lords balcony after his team’s famous victory over England, Ganguly gave Flintoff a fitting reply by taking his shirt off. Quite ironically, people might forget Flintoff’s celebration but nobody can forget our Dada’s answer to Flintoff.
6. Made 144 at Gabba to set the tone for the series and led from the front whenever the team needed him
Ganguly was one those players who always choose his team above self. When he realized that Sehwag would do a better job as an opener, he did not think twice before sacrificing his opening spot for the sake of the team.
Even today we cannot forget his gusty 144 against Australia or his fiery knock at the top against England in the 2002 Natwest final. Whenever the team needed him, he was there.
7. Sent Kaif above Yuvraj and Dravid to bat at No.4 against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup
Under Ganguly’s leadership, India has scripted many famous victories and the victory against Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup was definitely one of them.
Pakistan had posted a large total on the board and though India started well but soon lost two quick wickets and the captain himself was dismissed for a golden duck. Ganguly knew the situation was critical and therefore signaled to the dressing room to send Kaif ahead of Yuvraj and Dravid. Though his decision surprised many but soon Ganguly’s genius was proved as India went to script one of its most famous victories.
8. Picked an inexperienced Harbhajan Singh for the 2002 series and gave chances to youngsters
It is said that before the 2002 series, Harbhajan even thought moving quitting cricket and moving to U.S.A. But thanks to Sourav, it never happened. Dada fought for his selection for the 2002 India- Australia series and rest, as they say, is history.
Ganguly was one of the first captains who started giving chances to youngsters. His eye for spotting talent was exceptional.
It under was his leadership that players like Yuvraj, Kaif , Sehwag, Zaheer, Harbhajan and even Dhoni made their debuts.
They went on to become an integral part of team India for years to come and often he fought for their selection in the team
9. Became the most successful Indian captain ever
When he took charge of the Indian team, the Indian team was ranked as low as 8 but under his captaincy, it became one of the finest teams in test cricket. Ganguly recorded as many as 21 test victories as a captain, a record that was broken years later by M.S. Dhoni.
10. Made the great Steve Waugh wait for the toss and defeated Australia at their own game
Though Ganguly himself said that his action was not intentional but still this was a symbolic act in many ways. This act proved that Indians were no longer in awe of the Australians. It is said that this act greatly irritated Steve Waugh. Even though we don’t know whether the act was intentional or unintentional but it did prove to be quite effective as India not only ended Australia’s unbeaten streak but also won the important series.
These are just some of the incidents that prove that Sourav Ganguly was one of the finest captains the world has ever seen.
We miss you, Dada!