'Morning session will be crucial' - Ganguly
The third day's play of the final Test between India and Pakistan was bland compared to the excitement on the first two. Therefore, when Sourav Ganguly addressed the media after Pakistan had moved to within 58 runs of avoiding the follow-on, most of the questions centered around his maiden double-century a day earlier that had enabled him to better his Test-best after a gap of ten years.
"I have been trying to get a double hundred," Ganguly said. "I have been close a few times in the past, but didn't get it. It is good that I managed to do it in an important game."
Ganguly began his innings with India in a state of bother at 44 for 2, a situation that quickly worsened to 61for 4. He then provided the steady hand during an overwhelming 300-run stand with Yuvraj Singh and ensured that India drove home the advantage by piling up 626. It was an invaluable contribution considering that India, leading 1-0 in the series, were in trouble in the first session. Ganguly echoed that view by labelling it one of his more "important innings".
"We were 61 for 4 at one stage and from there we got to 600. So I think from that point of view and in the final Test of the series it was an important innings."
Pakistan batted solidly on the third day, scoring 283 runs for the loss of only four wickets but Ganguly felt that the morning session on the fourth day could determine whether or not the Test has a result.
"It [the pitch] does a bit early morning and this is the last batting pair. So if we can get an early breakthrough tomorrow and the way this wicket is behaving, it will not be easy for the lower-order batsmen. That is why the morning session will be crucial."
The double-century came during the last month of what has been a remarkable year for Ganguly. He has scored 932 runs in 16 innings so far in 2007, making it his most prolific year in Test cricket but he played down claims of it being the "best year of his career."
"I think in the year 2000 I got seven one-day hundreds, so that was a good year too. My first year in international cricket was a successful one. This has been a good year and I hope I can have some more good time in the middle."
Ganguly's life in the middle has been a fairytale since his comeback against South Africa last year and refused to get drawn into speaking about his forced exile during Greg Chappell's tenure as India's coach. According to Ganguly, his return to the team as a player, and not captain, had nothing to do with his improved form with the bat termed this fairytale a phase he would like to continue for a while.
"I don't think it was a good time, those eight months [out of the team]. It is just that I have played well [now] and it has kept on getting better. Even when I not was getting runs, the efforts have been the same. It is just that I am a bit more successful now."
George Binoy is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo