No. 37 August 30, 2009

Ganguly takes his shirt off

A brattish upstart brings the tone of Lord's down a notch or two

London, 13 July 2002

I remember it vividly. Mum was woken from her sleep, dad was going ballistic in his rocking chair, and I was prancing between hall, kitchen and mid-air. All of a sudden, one glance at the television and there was Sourav Ganguly baring his torso, swinging his India shirt, hurling invective, making quite a spectacle of himself.

The camera moved to Freddie Flintoff, a destroyed bowler, squatting on the pitch after conceding the winning run. The same Flintoff who'd charged topless around the Wankhede Stadium a few months earlier. Ganguly, standing on the Lord's balcony, was delivering the mother of all tit-for-tats, and it took some time before we could grasp the enormity of the defiance. Headquarters of cricket, the MCC's sanctum sanctorum, egg-and-bacon ties… and here was a scene out of Kolkata's Salt Lake Stadium after a local derby.

An extraordinary match got its perfect climax - hero extracting revenge and indulging in a war dance. The Wankhede and Lord's would be treated equally. We needed no further vindication that this Indian team was playing an inspired brand of cricket, not only with bat and ball but also with the head, and that it would wear its heart on its sleeve.

Dad, who grew up on tales of Ken Barrington, was a little shocked when he witnessed the scenes, and we ended up having a silly argument over the "spirit of the game". I simply loved it, mostly because it was the one moment where the essence of Ganguly was plain to see, the one moment we related perfectly to. Dada taught us several things on the cricket field; that day, he taught us how to celebrate.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is a former assistant editor at Cricinfo. This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine