Sourav Ganguly: God of the off-side

Ganguly's decision to retire after the current Australia series will bring the curtains down on the fascinating career of India's most successful captain

updated: May 13, 2009 11:04 IST
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New Delhi:

Sourav Ganguly's decision to retire after the current Test series against Australia will bring the curtains down on the fascinating career of not only India's most successful captain but of a player who made news equally for his cricketing skills as well as off-field controversies.

Arguably one of the greatest players on the off-side, Ganguly's career has been a roller coaster ride since making a dream debut on the hallowed turf of the Lord's in 1996.

Ganguly's ability to polarise public opinion kept him in the media glare for most part of his career -- love him or hate him but you just could not ignore him.

His sudden decision to quit international cricket will again raise speculation on whether a compromise formula was indeed worked out by the selectors to ease him out gracefully. It will also trigger a debate on whether he still had some cricket left in him and also on the future of the other seniors in the team.

Whether he still has cricket left in him is a matter of conjecture, but the feisty 36-year-old Ganguly will always be remembered for his never-say-die spirit and his tenacity to overcome obstacles.

He had his weaknesses as a batsman, particularly against the short-pitched stuff, and his running between the wickets and his fielding were not of a very high standard. But few can argue of his batting genius. 'God on the off-side' was an apt expression for the 'Prince of Kolkata'.

Ganguly has scored 6888 runs in 109 Tests, with 15 hundreds. In one-dayers he has scored 11363 in 311 matches. He played 49 Tests as captain, the most by an Indian.

The 21 matches won during his tenure as captain is also an Indian record, and his win percentage of over 40 is the highest for anyone who has captained India in more than one Test.

Starting with a hundred on debut, Ganguly's Test average has never dipped below 40.

The elegant left hander had his own methods of leading the team and he was successful in creating a winning unit from a bunch of talented cricketers. He supported his players to the hilt and they responded by giving their best for the captain on the field.

Despite being a batsman who combined grace with perfect timing, his career had not managed to make much headway before being resurrected by a historic century on debut at Lord's in 1996. Later that year, he was promoted to the top of the order in ODIs and, along with Sachin Tendulkar, formed one of the most lethal opening pairs in the game.

When he took over the captaincy after the match-fixing exposes in 2000, he quickly proved to be an intuitive leader. Under his leadership, India started winning Test matches away, and played exceptionally well to reach the final of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.

His career graph saw a dip in 2004 and from then on it has always been a struggle for him to retain his place in both the Test and ODI teams.

In Nagpur, his last-minute withdrawal played a part in Australia clinching the series and things went awry for the left hander with luck also deserting him. His famous spat with then coach Greg Chappell only compounded his misery and he was subsequently dropped from the team.

After being in the wilderness for some time, Ganguly forced his way back in the Test team but his gritty 30s in Karachi, when India succumbed to a humiliating defeat in early 2006, was not enough to help him retain his place in the team.

Ganguly was included in the Test squad for the away series in South Africa in 2006-2007. He ended as the highest run-scorer for India in that series and capped his stunning comeback with four half-centuries on his return to ODIs.

He continued his fine run in England, where he finished as the second highest scorer in Tests, and went on to hit back-to-back hundreds against Pakistan at home, the second of which was a glorious 239 in Bangalore.