India's best left-hander, and much more
Eleven years after a sensational start to his Test career at Lord's, Sourav Ganguly steps out for his 100th Test in Melbourne riding a crest reminiscent of 1996, when he heralded his arrival with back-to-back hundreds in his first two Tests. The celebrations have already begun for him, though: in his 98th Test he scored a maiden century in his home town, Kolkata, and followed that with 239 in Bangalore, the highest Test score by an Indian left-hand batsman.
Ganguly will become only the seventh Indian to play 100 Tests, and the second to reach the landmark at the Melbourne Cricket Ground after Allan Border. In the 99 Tests he has played so far, Ganguly has scored 6346 runs, making him fifth on the run-getters' list for India. He is the most successful Indian left-hander by far, with Ajit Wadekar a distant second with 2113 runs.
Thirty-two Test wickets doesn't say a lot about Ganguly the bowler, but he has been a handy option with his gentle seamers; in fact, he has opened the bowling for India in ten innings.
Ever since his comeback after being dropped from the team early in 2006, Ganguly has been in remarkable touch, and went past 1000 Test runs in a calendar year for the first time in his career.
Ganguly was in sublime touch during the recent three-Test series at home against Pakistan. He was assured and prolific with the bat, notching up his best aggregate for a Test series, and was able to get a few crucial breakthroughs when he rolled his arm over, picking up five wickets at under 20.
|Pakistan in India 2007-08||3||534||89.00||2/1|
|Sri Lanka in India 1997-98||3||394||98.00||2/1|
|India in England 2002||4||351||58.50||1/3|
The imperious touch with the bat also saw him amass the second-most number of runs in a three-Test series by an Indian batsman.
|Virender Sehwag||Pakistan in India 2004-05||544||90.66||2/1|
|Sourav Ganguly||Pakistan in India 2007-08||534||89.00||2/1|
|VVS Laxman||Australia in India 2000-01||503||83.83||1/3|
With the exception of South Africa and West Indies, Ganguly has scored a Test hundred against all opposition. His averages of 30.66 and 32.07 against those two are his lowest against teams, while he has only done marginally better - an average of 32.46 - against Australia. However, Ganguly fares better in away Tests against the three, averaging 36.14, 38.41 and 40 in Tests in South Africa, Australia and the West Indies. (For Ganguly's career batting summary, click here.)
Overall, Ganguly's overseas numbers are marginally better than his stats at home.
Twelve of Ganguly's 15 hundreds have come in drawn games, and his average in those matches is more than 60. The remaining three have come in wins, while Ganguly has done poorly in matches India have lost.
Out of 99 Tests, Ganguly has played 49 as captain, the most by an Indian. The 21 matches won during his tenure is also an Indian record, and he had a win percentage of over 40. He is the only one with such a high percentage among players who have captained India in more than a solitary Test.
|Player||Matches as captain||Won||Lost||Drawn||Percentage of matches won|
Though the team did well during his captaincy, the burden did affect Ganguly's batting. His average as captain is less than 38; in the 50 Tests in which he hasn't led, Ganguly's average is a healthy 47.91.
After his success while playing at No. 4 in the third Test against Pakistan in Bangalore - where he scored 239 and 91, Ganguly had said that batting down the order had resulted in him and VVS Laxman, who normally bats at No. 6, missing out on big scores.
The figures for Ganguly vindicate that statement: he has fared much better at positions three and four - the ones normally occupied by Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar - than at No. 5, the position he has played at most often.
The trio of Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar form of the top five batting combinations for India in Tests. In partnership with Tendulkar, Ganguly has scored 3739 runs at an average of more than 61, while his numbers with Dravid are almost as impressive.
|Batsmen||Innings||Runs||Average runs per dismissal||100s/50s|
|Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar||99||5028||52.92||15/18|
|Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly||64||3739||61.29||10/15|
|Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar||67||3272||50.33||10/12|
|Chetan Chauhan, Sunil Gavaskar||60||3127||54.85||11/10|
|Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly||59||3040||56.29||10/11|
Ganguly had an eventful start to his Test career - with consecutive hundreds in his first two matches - and though his average has dipped since then, he's one of the few batsmen who have maintained an average of more than 40 throughout their careers.
Ganguly made his Test debut in the same Test as Dravid, and a comparison between the careers of the two makes for interesting reading. Till the 30th Test the gap between the averages of the two wasn't much, but since then it has widened considerably.
|Tests played||Ganguly's average||Dravid's average|
Like all batsmen, Ganguly has been dismissed a significant numbers of times for low scores. However, perhaps one reason he hasn't been able to prop up his average towards 50 is his inability to build big hundreds. He only has two scores of more than 150, unlike Dravid, who has gone past 150 nine times in his career.
|Score range||Percentage of Ganguly's total innings||Percentage of Dravid's total innings|
Mathew Varghese is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo