Chandresh Narayanan - Goodwill Hunting

So who was really responsible for Tendulkar remaining unbeaten on 194?

Wednesday, October 08, 2021
When Dada put his foot down

The legend of Sourav Ganguly was gaining currency even as I began my formative years as a reporter. He had created an aura around him with his captaincy style and his presence on the field.

So naturally, I was a bit hesitant to go up to the man and meet him. At a camp before the start of the 2003-04 season, Ganguly was present but was out of bounds at most times.

It was not before India's first tour to Pakistan in early 2004 that I had a chance to catch up with the man himself. The first sight of him, close and personal was at the end of the first ODI at Karachi which India won narrowly. An angry Ganguly entered the media room looking for someone he knew and whispered something in his ear.

On my first international tour, this behaviour seemed a little odd, but very soon my quizzical look had an answer. The chosen one asked a question which 'Maharaj' wanted to answer and that was what Ganguly had asked him to do.

There was another instance when the maverick nature of the man influenced me. The venue was Rawalpindi as the two teams moved for the second ODI of the series. An unwell Ganguly missed the practise session and it was left to his trusted lieutinant Rahul Dravid to stand-in for him at the pre-match briefing.

Delhi paceman Ashish Nehra was suffering from his trademark ankle injury and Dravid very promptly announced that the Delhi seamer was unavailable for the game. Minutes after the briefing, Ganguly walked in casually and looked around the field.

He first made a beeline for the boundary hoardings and urged the groundsmen to bring it in further. And just as he was moving away, he was mobbed by members of the fourth estate from his city.

"Is Ashish Nehra not going to play?'' they asked. "He will play, who says he won't?'' he counter-questioned. That was that and Nehra did play the game. And Dravid, The Wall was made to look like he was on weak foundation.

The series moved on as India won in dramatic circumstances at Lahore, but Dada had injured his back while fielding. He hobbled out of the ground, but watched from the sidelines as his side created history.

As with Ganguly, most things he did were very dramatic. Till a day before the first Test at Multan, which followed the one-day series, there was no word whether Ganguly would be fit for the game. It took the sight of long-time deputy Dravid walking up and shaking hands with Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq for a confirmation on the man's absence.

Yet during that Test, Ganguly was omnipresent, gesturing just minutes before Dravid made a dramatic decision to declare, with Sachin Tendulkar unbeaten on 194. Was he the one who prompted Dravid's decision? This is a question that will never get an answer.

But the drama on who took the decision to declare did not end there. Ganguly was allegedly quoted rather being misquoted on the matter. It required a conference call, involving Ganguly and Dravid, with the 'accused' journalist for the matter to be considered closed.

Ganguly left for Kolkata mid-way through the series for treatment, but dramatically came back to lead the side in the decider at Rawalpindi.

With Yuvraj Singh scoring a hundred in the second Test at Lahore, there was a lot of speculation on the make-up of the final XI. The fall guy seemed to be Delhi opener Aakash Chopra, but the big question was who would open the batting?

Those were the days when the members of the fourth estate of Kolkata were in full swing. So in dramatic circumstances, Ganguly announced to them that he would himself open the batting.

It was expected that finally after seven years Ganguly would be out batting as the opener. But it was not to be.

When India walked out to bat, lo and behold you had wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel walking out to partner Virender Sehwag. The reaction of some of the members of the media from the East told a story of its own.

The media men kept quizzing Ganguly on the change of plans, but he just kept to himself. He had once again done things his way and left everyone wondering.

So it was hardly a surprise that he has decided to quit when he was asked why? Rather than why not?