Ganguly, a man on mission

Published: Tuesday, February 27, 2007, 17:21 [IST]
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Sourav Ganguly was the most ignored man of Indian cricket last year, but has now become the key to his team's campaign in the World Cup tournament in the Caribbean.

The stylish left-handed batsman has not changed after spending a year in wilderness. His appetite for runs is as insatiable as it was when he made his one-day debut more than a decade ago.

When Ganguly returned to the Indian squad after 16 months in January, he hammered a robust 98 against the West Indies at Nagpur to remind his critics that they would have to wait before writing his cricketing obituary.

He was the most successful Indian Test captain when he was dumped in 2005, first as a skipper and then as a player. He was forced to play domestic cricket to prove he was not past his sell-by date.

Ganguly had scored more than 10,000 runs in the shorter version of the game when the fate suddenly started playing tricks with him. His public spat with coach Greg Chappell also did his reputation no good.

But he just refused to fade away and the selectors were forced to recall him after repeated failures of those who had replaced him in the squad.

Ganguly returned as a man with a point to prove.

He was the top Indian scorer with 214 runs in a three-Test series in South Africa, where many of his team-mates struggled against pace. India lost the series 2-1, but realised that old was still gold.

Ganguly's triumphant return to international cricket solved India's major problem of finding effective openers in both forms of the game, especially after Virender Sehwag's poor form.

The former Indian captain played a major role in his team's winning the one-day series against Brian Lara's West Indians, scoring 179 runs in three matches.

He continued his form with knocks of 62, 48 and 58 in the series win over Sri Lanka.

Ganguly is now expected to open the innings in the World Cup, a job he has already done with great efficiency in his illustrious career. He has the shots and temperament to make the most of fielding restrictions in early overs.

He is always a delight to watch when on song, capable of stepping up the run-rate with his aggressive batting. His over-the-top hitting in initial overs has often driven the opposition to the verge of despair.

Ganguly made news in the last two World Cup tournaments in England and South Africa with his consistency. He put on a record 318 for the second wicket with Rahul Dravid against Sri Lanka in 1999, scoring a century in the process.

He was the leader who inspired his team with example in the 2003 edition, scoring three centuries as his team won eight successive matches to storm into the final.

India expect Ganguly to deliver again in the Caribbean because his form will be instrumental in making his team's fortunes. They will be looking for a solid start from him to set or chase a stiff total.

Ganguly is the second Indian after Tendulkar with more than 10,000 runs in one-day internationals. There is also an added incentive for the 34-year-old to perform as he will probably be figuring in his last World Cup.


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