Vintage Ganguly focused amid euphoria of love

Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Cuttack:This part of India is indeed Ganguly-land and the former captain, after making a mother of all comebacks, doesn't seem to be in a mood to disappoint as he looked focused, disciplined and ready to deliver.

Waving at the crowds that had thronged the stadium gate to see their favourite 'Dada' get down from the team bus, Ganguly smiled genially as he ambled into the stadium. The cheers of 'dada---dada' rented the air like a lingering refrain.

He was the last man to enter the ground today, but was the first to attend the team meeting and go through all the paces of the drills.

He must be loving ironies and challenges. Of all the grounds in the world to make a one-day comeback and seek redemption, he returned to Nagpur. It was here that after a humiliating defeat against the Aussies his downslide started. What a twist of fate that it was here, that he rewrote one of the most memorable comeback chronicles, with a brilliant 98. Ganguly hadn't played a one-day international for India since September 2005.

But after the vintage Ganguly flowed, he walked back to the dressing room with a limp. There was an immediate whisper on whether he will be able to take the field at Barabati. The whispers became a buzz, when he did not come out to field in Nagpur.

However, on his arrival to Bhubaneswar, Ganguly announced, ''I am fit. I will play.'' The sore calf muscle had healed and he was on medication.

Today he was the centre of attraction during the practice session. Everyone received a cheer from the few thousand people that had gathered to see the team practice. But Ganguly's cheer was extra-large, brinking on euphoria.

A policeman on guard said, ''Its because of Ganguly that so many people have come here. He is loved here in this part of the country.'' A youth who came to watch the practice with his friends confirmed the officer's assertion.

''We are group of boys who have come only to see Ganguly,'' he said.

The Orissa Cricket Association is happy too. ''Since Ganguly is playing the demands of the tickets have soared. The stadium is a sell-out. And we had to return many disappointed,'' an OCA official said.

The OCA was so excited about Ganguly's presence that the state body's secretary Ashirbad Behera even planned to launch their souvenir from Ganguly's hands.

But leaving the crowd and the madness behind him, Ganguly remained focused. He was the most prolific target-man hitting the stumps 10 times out of 15 as a group consisting Rahul Darvid, Sachin Tendulkar, Robin Utthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik, besides him were taking a shy at the stumps under Gregory Allan King.

Then he went for some high catching. The complacency of him being priceless to the Indian team having worn out, the 'Prince of Calcutta' shone. During he close catching practice, he seemed to be unhappy with himself as he tried to excel with Ian Fraser taking the players through the paces.

Maharaj, as he is nicknamed, next moved to the nets. A spring was visible in his step. After hitting his trademark drives and cuts and some improvised pulls to the spinners Ramesh Power, Raina and Harbhajan Singh, he settled for some down the wicket shots to the pacers.

But what was most heartening to see was his interaction with coach Greg Chappell. As both began their practice sessions, Ganguly was seen doing shadow practice with Chappell's bat before handing the bat over to him and then exchanging some pleasantries. Both were seen laughing and chatting before moving in different directions.

With things looking settled and easy, one can only hope that the fountain will sprout to life-and-runs on the off-side again tomorrow as Ganguly gets out to mad raptures of the 30,000 odd supporters to put the Caribbeans to sword again.


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