Hello, Lord's to farewell, lads
It's his Test debut, and he is believed to be a political selection for the tour to England, a perception he puts paid to in seven-and-a-half hours of blissful batting. The image - Ganguly celebrating, arms aloft, no brashness of the later days, and Rahul Dravid applauding him in the background - is enduring: the wait has finally ended; the boy who persistently called newspaper offices for four years to see if he is in the team has arrived.
That don't impress me much
In 2000-01 Australia are a world-beating team with 15 straight wins behind them and are at the final stop on their conquest. One man is not impressed. "They have won most of their games at home, beaten West Indies 5-0 at home, beaten India, Pakistan at home," Ganguly welcomes Australia. "They toured here in '96 and lost. They toured here in '98 and lost. So obviously that's going to be at the back of their mind." No awe here. If that doesn't rile Australia, Ganguly goes further during the series. He walks out late for the toss and, if he wins it, he walks off on his own after letting the TV interviewer know what India choose to do. Once, after being pulled up by Cammie Smith, the match referee, he turns up five minutes before the toss - in his tracksuit top. "You had to give him an 'A' for effort in his attempt to annoy us," Steve Waugh writes in his book, "and in particular me. It worked to a certain extent."
Doing the HQ
Indians, not the least Bengalis, are supposed to be studious, meek, wristy, oriental artists. They are not supposed to make opposition captains wait at the toss, make fielders tie their shoelaces and, worst of all, sledge. There the Indian captain is, at Lord's, no less, waving the shirt he wore a moment ago, shouting four-letter words again and again. With Ganguly, India's aggression goes naked, one of the turning points in the nation's cricketing history.
Surviving the Gabbatoir
He sweeps Stuart MacGill just wide of fine leg, runs very hard to convert what is for him an easy one into two, leaps twice in elation, almost trips over, pumps the air, holds his arms aloft and, without uttering a word tells every Australian that he enjoyed the "sweet chin music". This is the Gabba, and the year is 2003. Not only the Australian team, the whole nation, it seems, is after him, and this is test of the captain's mettle. The innings has it all - urgency, emotion, disdain - and sets the pace for the series.
Refusal to die
Only about a couple of hundred have come to watch him play a Duleep Trophy match in Rajkot. The email has already been leaked, his integrity questioned. On the surface he has been left out on fitness grounds, but the writing is on the wall. The North Zone attack - VRV Singh, Gagandeep Singh, Amit Mishra and Sarandeep Singh - does not sound intimidating, but on a greenish Rajkot track they are a handful. He comes in to bat on the second day, his team struggling at 54 for 3, and then at 59 for 4. In the short period before stumps, he is hit on the head by VRV. A different Ganguly appears the next day: he is sure, and he is aggressive. He plays all his shots, including the one where he makes room and slashes over point, a shot he usually employed in one-dayers. By the time he finished he had scored 117 off 143, and sent across the message that he should be playing somewhere else.
One for himself
The one word that describes the Ganguly who has made a comeback to the Indian side is serene. Almost monk-like, he goes about his business - fields mostly at the fine-leg boundary, bowls a few overs, and bats with utmost calm. No more shirt flinging, no more nail biting on the field. His last century, in Mohali, is one such effort. A century is almost inevitable from the moment he joins Sachin Tendulkar at the crease. Upon reaching the landmark, he doesn't react extravagantly, despite the drama behind his comeback to the side, he just smiles to himself, pumps the air, and gets on with it.
'Just one last thing lads'
Does he choke for a brief second? After he says "Just one last thing lads" and before he drops the bomb. He does pause, for sure. Is he collecting himself? Does he wait to make sure words will come out? Once he has said what he has said, you are too stunned to think what has happened in that split-second. "Before I leave, I just want to say that this is going to be my last series. I've decided to quit. I told my team-mates before coming here." And the lads don't have a word to say. They look at him, they look at each other, they look down. The announcement is all Ganguly: he comes in late for the press conference, he is mildly humorous, takes all questions in good spirit, and waits for the media coordinator to end the conference before catching everyone off guard.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo