131 v England, Lord's, 1996
It has been a month since he last played an international, and four-and-a-half years since he played one before that. Those are also his only two to date. His selection is already the most controversial aspect on the tour - allegedly a work of quota system. After India have squandered the initiative and let England score 344
after having them down at 107 for 5, a familiar story looks in the offing. On a chilly third morning, Ganguly is imperious through the off side, driving both through the covers and behind point. He pulls the short ones capably and hits 20 boundaries in what seems an inevitable century.
Sahara Cup v Pakistan, Toronto, 1997
The kits are still white, the ball is still swinging, and India-Pakistan clashes are still rare. In his 34 ODIs till date, Ganguly has scored only one century and taken only one wicket. The wickets here are to his immense liking; he bowls accurately, getting just enough movement at just about the right pace, taking a wicket every 20 balls, and for 10 runs each. He is winning matches with the bat too, the most significant being the run-a-ball 75 as India successfully chase 160 in 26 overs. He ends up the best batsman and the best bowler in both the sides. He is the Man of the Match in the first match of the next year's Sahara Cup too.
124 v Pakistan, Independence Cup final, Dhaka, 1997-98
A target of over 300 has been chased successfully only once in the past. India are chasing 315 against Pakistan, in the third of the best-of-three
finals. Sachin Tendulkar gets off to a blazing start, but gets out for 41. Robin Singh scores a run-a-ball 80 too, but it's Ganguly who holds the innings together with a well-paced 124. When he gets out, India are close enough, but go on to make a mess before finally winning in dramatic fashion.
183 v Sri Lanka, Taunton, 1999
True wicket, short boundaries, put in and at one down in first over, Rahul Dravid joins Ganguly. After Dravid sets the pace, Ganguly goes on to make it his day. He moves from elegant to downright brutal, his century coming up in 119 balls,
and the next 83 in only 39 balls.
153* and 1 for 33 v New Zealand, Gwalior, 1999-2000
The next best scores are 45, 15, 15. It is a damp wicket and Indian top order, bar Ganguly has struggled. He hangs in, though, to find able support in Robin Singh, as they put on 119 in the last 11.3 overs. Ganguly is in supreme touch and with 18 fours and three sixes, scores about 59 per cent of the team runs
in exactly half of the legal deliveries. For good measure, he bowls economically as first change after Nathan Astle has got stuck into Debasis Mohanty.
141 v Pakistan, Adelaide, 2000-01
It's traditional rivals
again, this time in the middle of a horrible Australian summer for both the teams. Pakistan, though, have improved during the one-dayers; India are yet to win their first international. On a true pitch, Ganguly rolls out his full repertoire of strokes. He puts on 88 in 15 overs with Tendulkar for the first wicket, 87 in 20 with Dravid for the second, and makes sure the good work is not squandered by staying there until the 49th over.
18 and 98* v Sri Lanka, Kandy, 2001
India are never known for their fourth-innings batting. With Tendulkar not around, and on a fourth-day Kandy wicket, India have to chase 264
. Ganguly's captaincy has already come in for severe criticism, but this time he needs badly to come good with the bat - he has not scored a fifty for the last 13 innings. He does come good, playing sensibly and in partnership with Dravid, negating the threat of Muttiah Muralitharan.
144 v Australia, Brisbane, 2003-04
It wouldn't be unfair to say this is the test of Ganguly's manhood. His batting record as captain is not impressive, Australians have, as tradition is, gone after the captain. Amid talk of chin music and talks of trying to defend the batting order by opting to bowl first, Ganguly walks in at 62 for 3, last three having fallen for one run. What follows is a breathtaking counter-attack
that sets the tone for the whole series. The off side is packed, waiting for what they think is an inevitable catch. Instead, Ganguly peppers the field with 87 runs through the off side, with 12 boundaries.
239 and 91 v Pakistan, Bangalore, 2007-08
At 61 for 4, having fallen to early-morning freshness, India are threatening to yet again squander a lead in the Test-series decider
. In comes Yuvraj Singh to join Ganguly, seemingly carrying a new wicket to bat on. For 65.2 overs and 300 runs, Pakistan can only watch the two sprint away with the game. When Yuvraj gets out for 169, Ganguly is unbeaten on 124. He is no mood to give up yet, and goes on to score his first double-century, and when he gets out with the team total at 605, the matter has been put beyond Pakistan. The obituaries, written for three years now and brushed up time and again, can safely be burnt.
87 v South Africa, Kanpur, 2007-08
Looking to avoid an embarrassing series defeat, India get a track that starts cracking on the first day, spinning in the first session, and batting is extremely difficult. Advantage Indian, right? Wrong. After South Africa have scored 265, their fast bowlers have made life hell for Indian batsmen. At 123 for 4, India look like they might lose on a track tailormade for them. Ganguly not only survives, but takes control of the rest of the innings, scoring 87 out of the 166 that are scored during his stay at the crease. Although his runs come in 119 deliveries, he never looks hurried, serene almost. His innings carries India past South Africa's total, and lays foundation for a face-saving Test win
. He later calls this one of his best innings in Test cricket, and for good reason.