January 18, 2002

May it be Eden for Ganguly

Eden Gardens in Kolkata will host the first one-day international between India and England on Saturday. The series promises to be as enchanting as the atmosphere at the Eden Gardens. This venue has the highest crowd capacity in the country and the outfield is as good as the best one could find anywhere in the World.

The Kolkata crowd being sports crazy, one can expect a full house what with the local lad Ganguly leading the national side. Even under normal circumstances, the Bengalis like to egg the home side on. One thing to bear in mind though is that they are not too tolerant when dealing with failures. With the Indian skipper hard up for runs, the crowd would be behind him and rooting for his success with the bat. The Bengalis are aware as much as Ganguly himself that it is about time he puts up runs on the board.

Sourav Ganguly
© AFP
Ganguly is more of a demi-god in Kolkata for his achievements as a cricketer overshadow those of any other Bengali. A posse of security men guard his palatial home at Behela. It does not take much effort to get to his place. One has to only get to the neighbourhood and anyone would guide you to his residence readily enough. He gets the privileged treatment that a ranking politician gets when it comes to travelling within the city. The escort and pilot cars forewarn the traffic cops to clear the way. Ganguly out on the roads in Kolkata is more of a problem for his sentinels - the adulation he enjoys in his city renders it impossible for him to get out. As much as he enjoys the support of people he is aware that he will be cut down to size if he does not perform consistently.

It was Geoffrey Boycott who dubbed Ganguly, the `Prince of Kolkata', and indeed, the Prince will be under considerable pressure as he walks out to bat with Tendulkar. Any captain in international cricket is prone to anxiety on the eve of a game, but in the case of Ganguly it is all the more greater as this series is a big one and may well dictate his future. The shorter version of the game has proved to be his saviour and his success in the one-dayers has caused the selectors to overlook his failures in the Tests. Quite obviously, he is going through a very lean phase and the Eden Gardens is the ideal venue for him to reassure himself and the people who hold him in high esteem by notching up a ton.

Sourav Ganguly
© CricInfo
Ganguly is realistic enough to know that his walk back to the pavilion would be a nightmare if he fails and as such would be doubly determined at the crease. He has had a break and at the moment, one gets the impression that his problems are related to the mental aspects rather than the technical ones. The other way of saying is that his movements are products of his hesitancy in thinking. He has been criticized in a couched language that he is susceptible to short stuff but as a matter of fact he has been getting out caught in the slips. Then, of course, the slip cordon will not be as strong as it is in the Tests but still he will be made to work hard by his opponents.

The Eden Gardens revived Azharuddin's career in 1993 when he was in the same situation as Ganguly is in today. It was again the same venue, which took Laxman to the pinnacle of his career. Ganguly has grown up batting at the Eden for most part of his career and the familiar atmosphere and the support would mean more to him now than before. The stage is set and there is hardly any time left for the all-important series to begin. One can only hope that he does not put the selectors in a delicate situation of having to sit and deliberate about him. The Prince of Kolkata is a pleasure to watch when on song and hopefully he will continue to entertain for a fair while to come.