"When I used to take little Maharaj (Saurav's nickname) to play cricket, never did I imagine he would reach this level one day," Chandi Ganguly said in this eastern city. He says Saurav has had to toil hard to reach where he is today, and he plans to tell the story of his son's ascent to the captaincy.
"Though my son's appointment as captain has come at disadvantageous times, we are sure he will handle the situation in right earnest and bring Indian cricket back on the rails," Chandi Ganguly said.
He said the news of Saurav Ganguly's appointment did not come as a surprise. "My wife is down with fever. My elder daughter-in-law has broken her leg. So we perhaps are not being able to celebrate in the right manner. But the news has certainly improved my wife's health," Chandi Ganguly said.
Saurav's mother said her son had called up to convey the news and asked for her blessings. Saurav's mother-in-law, Sapna Roy, said she was proud of her son-in-law.
Though celebrations at the Ganguly household may be muted because not everyone there is in the best of health, Calcutta is making up for it. The Ganguly residence at Behela on the city's southeastern fringe is teeming with well-wishers. Chandi Ganguly has been receiving congratulatory messages non-stop on the telephone and accepting the greetings of fans who have been trooping into the house since Saturday night, when the appointment was announced.
The rest of West Bengal is as proud as the Ganguly household. Several Calcutta clubs have planned week-long celebrations to mark what they call the "biggest sporting event for the state".
Jubilant fans danced on the streets and distributed sweets to passers-by to celebrate the occasion. Local newspapers gave extensive front-page coverage to Ganguly's appointment as captain.
Said Pulak Chatterjee, an ardent Saurav fan who had come to wish his cricketing idol's father, "He should have been made captain much earlier. But better late than never. The initial enthusiasm of Kapil Dev's appointment as the team coach has died down because he has failed to improve the team's performance. Now it is up to Saurav to turn the tide," Chatterjee said.
Garlanded posters of Saurav adorn every neighbourhood in the sports-crazy metropolis. Not only players, former and present, but also politicians, even the stoic state Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, have expressed happiness at his appointment as captain and wished him success.
Former national cricket selector Sambaran Banerjee said, "Leadership is inborn in Saurav. His appointment will certainly do Indian cricket good." Agreed former Test player Pankaj Roy, "I thank the selectors for picking up the right man at long last."
Ganguly is the first player from West Bengal to skipper the national team. Pankaj Roy had captained India in one Test match in 1959 against England at Lord's, but that was as stand-in captain in the absence of the regular captain, DK Gaikwad, who was injured.
Ganguly has led the country in one-dayers as a stand-in captain. He will lead the country in the one-dayers against the South Africans beginning on March 9 and the triangular series in Sharjah after that.
India Abroad News Service