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An away win in Kolkata marks Sourav Ganguly's perfect homecoming

He emerged from the away dressing room at Eden Gardens, addressed the media clad in Delhi Capitals' red and blue, and later headed for his office as the president of the Cricket Association of Bengal

On the eve of the match against Kolkata Knight Riders, Sourav Ganguly - clad in Delhi Capitals' red-and-blue - walked out of the away dressing room at Eden Gardens, took the old, grilled lift up to the first floor and entered his chamber that read "President - Cricket Association of Bengal". It's a sight that's unlikely to be witnessed at any other cricket ground in the world, where a member of the away team has the biggest room in the building.
When Capitals completed a comfortable win on Friday night, Ganguly was back again in the spotlight, at least in the eyes of the local fans. There was curiosity about what Ganguly's reaction would be after the win. Would he soak it all in in a humble manner? Or would he rub the win in the face of a team that discarded him all those years ago?
It was neither. Ganguly turned around, looked at the fans sitting in the stand that bears his name at Eden Gardens, raised his right hand in a fist and acknowledged the crowd in a very unassertive manner. He then walked up to the opposition, shook their hands, and made his way up to the media centre for the post-match press conference.
I know many stories are written, but you deal with it. There's nothing you can do. KKR play here every day. We don't
Press conferences for away teams can be intimidating in Kolkata after the home side has lost. But not for Ganguly. He trod in, sat in the chair and acknowledged the presence of his "friends" in the media before taking the first question.
"Was this win special because it came against Knight Riders?" a journalist asked.
"KKR was also my team, you know," Ganguly said. "And Delhi Capitals is also my team."
It brought a wry smile to those in attendance, but the serious question followed next. Someone asked whether Ganguly - despite being in the away side - had a role to play with the pitch. After all, he's been calling the shots at this ground for the past few years, and there was the question of conflict of interest in being a state board president and an IPL team advisor. Ganguly, though, dismissed that line of questioning right away, now in a more serious mood than when he first walked in.
"Didi," he interjected, "I've played so much cricket and watched so much cricket that I don't need to do stuff like that. A good team will play well on all pitches, and we are a good side.
"I know many stories are written, but you deal with it. There's nothing you can do. KKR play here every day. We don't."
With the questions on dada out of the way, the focus shifted to the game. For the last five minutes, many had even forgotten that there was a performance to dissect.
Someone probed on the win, set up by two left-handed batsmen, Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant, finding form right before the India World Cup squad is announced on April 15. Pant's 31-ball 46 was fairly uncharacteristic, almost playing second fiddle to an unbeaten 97 from Dhawan. Ganguly said Pant followed the mandate he was given by the side, and backed Dhawan to fire at the World Cup irrespective of his form at the IPL, but saved his greatest praise for Ishant Sharma, who set the tone of the win with a wicket-maiden in the opening over of the match and followed it up with three more tight overs to end with figures of 4-1-21-1.
He's a great talent, a terrific player and he's only going to get better. We wanted him to stay till the end, and he nearly finished the game for us
"Rishabh played according to the situation," Ganguly said. "We pushed him up at No. 4 to give him more opportunity to bat. He's a great talent, a terrific player and he's only going to get better. We wanted him to stay till the end, and he nearly finished the game for us.
"As for Shikhar, he's one of the best opening batsmen in the world. When he sets he takes the game away. When he plays for India, he bats this way once he gets set. He's a class act, actually. [He] makes run consistently in the international format. We were desperate for Shikhar once we heard he wanted to leave [Sunrisers] Hyderabad. And now this is the most important phase of the tournament, so good to see him get a big score.
"Dhawan will always play well in the World Cup. He's excellent in England, has been Man of the Series twice at the Champions Trophy, and he's just a wonderful one-day cricketer.
"But the best thing was how our bowlers did. Ishant Sharma, when we picked him, people said he's a Test bowler. And he's been our best bowler for the last six-seven matches, that's the way."
Ganguly even went on to credit Capitals' resurgence this season to the coach Ricky Ponting. He stated sharing the same hunger to win worked well for the side.
"We are both determined people to turn this team around," Ganguly said. "Both of us have played in teams which have won all around the world, be it World Cups or Test matches, any format. So there's a lot of self-pride in turning things around. That's all we're trying to do."
With Capitals entering the top four before the weekend, the side will now hope for a better campaign this season after finishing last in 2018.
"I thought we bowled exceptionally well to restrict them," Ganguly said. "[It's] always great winning here. But every win is important. You need to qualify for the top four. Doesn't matter if this was my home. We haven't reached the final four, but still a bit of time to go for the series."
After the press conference, as Ganguly started to walk out, a few young journalists ran behind him for a selfie and he obliged. He then walked down two flights of stairs, turned right and entered the president's chamber on the first floor, before gently closing the door behind him. There couldn't have been a more perfect homecoming for the prince of Kolkata.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo