TWO LEGENDS: Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly smile after India defeated Australia in the second Test in Mohali.
Sourav Ganguly, one of India’s most charismatic cricketers, will be seen for the last time as an international player on Monday. Ganguly is retiring from international cricket after nearly 16 years.
Sachin Tendulkar says the entire country will miss the elegant left-hand batsman, who has often been described as the ‘God of off-side’.
“Everyone will miss Sourav. He is not only my teammate but is a very special player and has contributed a lot to the team and country. He has had a fantastic career and when a player like him retires not only the team but the entire country will miss him,” Tendulkar said.
Ironically, Ganguly’s last Test innings, just like Sir Don Bradman, ended in a duck on Sunday. He was caught and bowled by Jason Krejza in the second innings of the Nagpur Test against Australia off the first ball that he faced.
A bit disappointing for Ganguly, but his fans will look back on his international career with great pride. He started with a century on debut and made a sublime 85 in the first innings of the Nagpur Test against Australia; although he had to end with a golden duck.
So was Ganguly pleased with how his career turned out?
A few days a go in an exclusive interview to CNN-IBN’s Sanjeeb Mukherjee, Ganguly had said he would have liked a few more Test runs under against his name.
Sanjeeb Mukherjea: Talking about Sourav Ganguly — the batsman, do you think you neglected your batting?
Sourav Ganguly: No, I didn’t. In terms of my One-Day performance, I think it’s been outstanding. In terms of my Test cricket, I would have loved to have a few more runs but I also batted at No. 5 and No. 6 and although it is not an excuse but I thought that although I have more that 7,000 runs in test cricket, a few more would have been happy to go with.
Sanjeeb Mukherjea: What were the reactions of Sachin, Dravid, Anil and Sehwag, when you broke the news to them?
Sourav Ganguly: I’m sure they knew that at some stage it had to come. It’s going to come for them as well. They were not surprised, they expected it. Everybody has to go in sports. It’s my turn today and it will be their turn sometime.
Sanjeeb Mukherjea: It must have been an emotional moment for you also?
Sourav Ganguly: It wasn’t that emotional buy obviously we would miss it. Initially, you will miss the competitiveness because the pleasure you got by scoring a Test hundred or an One-Day hundred, it cannot be valued by anything else. Every time you get a hundred, you feel ‘this is what I wanted to do and I am still good at it’. That satisfaction will not come from anything else. Financially, when you play for 13-14 years in modern cricket, you are far past well-off. That’s not an issue.
Ganguly made his One-Day debut against the West Indies during the 1991/92 Benson and Hedges World Series Cup at Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba, Brisbane, in Australia while his first Test match was against England at Lord’s in 1996.
VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, and Sachin Tendulkar during a felicitation
Former captains Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly reposed faith in Mahendra Singh Dhoni and expressed hopes that under him, India would emerge as the number one team in the world.
“I know for the fact that this team under MS and (coach) Gary (Kirsten) will soon become the number one team. We have that talent,” an optimist Kumble said after he, along with Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman were felicitated by the BCCI.
Ganguly, India’s most successful captain ever, shared Kumble’s view and said, “MS and Gary are our two torch-bearers and I hope they would take Indian cricket forward.”
Ganguly, who is playing his last Test here, took the occasion to thank all and said though he didn’t endear to all, he always had the team interest in mind.
“It was a long journey with lots of ups and downs, victory and loss but it was wonderful. Sharing the dressing room with the likes of Anil, Sachin, Rahul (Dravid) and Laxman has been an honour and privilege.
“During the journey, I made both friends and enemies but it was all for the good of Indian cricket,” said the left-hander.
Kumble individually thanked almost each and every teammate even though Tendulkar came in for special praise. “When he first came into the international scene, whole India said ‘you’d break every batting record’ and he had the talents to prove all right…
“With Rahul, I have shared a special bond, he was my Karnataka teammate as well. We have had some fantastic moments and I say ‘you have been the backbone of Indian cricket. All the success we had came because of your contribution’,” Kumble said.
Kumble was equally effusive in his praise for Ganguly and said, “Under you, we’ve learnt how to win Tests abroad. Besides, we have always cherished your batting.”
On Laxman, who is playing his 100th Test here, Kumble felt the right hander didn’t get his dues despite bailing out the team from difficult situations.
For his spin partner Harbhajan Singh, Kumble said, “I will miss bowling with you from the other end. From now onwards, you’d lead the (spin) attack. You are close to a personal landmark (of 300 Test wickets) and I’m sure one day you’ll become the highest wicket-taker for India.”
On Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan, Kumble said, “I have played lot with both Veeru and Zak. Veeru is a very special talent and both he and Zak would lead the Indian batting and bowling.
“To all other members of the team, I wish you a great career ahead. Before this Test series against Australia, we sat and decided in Bangalore that we have to win this series. We are very close to that and I hope you guys will win it.”
Talking about Kumble and Ganguly, Tendulkar paid a rich tribute to both and said, “Sourav had lots of ups and downs in his career but has shown great determination and delivered tremendous performance. We’ve opened in lot of ODIs and know each other’s game very well.
“Anil too showed 100 percent determination. He broke his jaw in West Indies but returned with a plastered jaw and removed Brian Lara,” Tendulkar said.
“We’ll miss Sourav and Anil, as will the entire country,” he added.
Anil Kumble has announced his retirement from cricket, saying the finger injury he sustained on the third day of the Test helped him make his decision. The news was made public minutes after the tea break on the final day; Kumble then bowled four overs before the match was called off as a draw.
“The body was asking questions every day,” he said. “It was not easy to keep bowling the way I have been bowling the last 18 years, to keep going. The injury I had on the third day probably helped me make the decision.”
The captaincy now passes on to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who already leads India in the shorter forms of the game.
Kumble made the formal announcement at the post-match press conference, at which he received a standing ovation from the journalists crowded into the room. He doffed his cap and sat down to speak to the media one last time as an India player and captain. He stayed composed throughout the conference, which took place minutes after the emotional farewell he had received on the field.
Kumble had decided to quit last night but took his time in letting his team-mates know, lest it took their focus off the match. “I did inform my team-mates, who I have played with all these years, one by one during the day,” Kumble said. “Then I informed the chairman of the selection committee just after lunch. I did inform the board as well.”
It took a “nasty injury” to finally push Kumble into retirement. He has had a shoulder injury before, and has been troubled by it, but at 38, the “pretty deep” cut proved too much. “You could see the flesh. There are 11 stitches,” Kumble said. “The doctor said I had to undergo the procedure under general anesthesia. I told him, ‘If you give me general anesthesia I’ll lose time, I’d like to go there and bowl.’ He said ‘Look, it’s a medical decision, not a cricketing decision.”
“The stitches will come out only on November 8, which is the third day of the Nagpur Test. I don’t think it was easy for me to bat or field. I wouldn’t have been 100% and I didn’t want to let the team down. Anyway I had more or less decided this would be my last series.”
Kumble has never given the team less than 100% and he said wanted to be remembered most for that. “I definitely put the team above self, right through my career,” Kumble said. “I believe Indian cricket has certainly gone further from the time when I started, in terms of results, not just in India but also abroad.
“And I am confident that with this young team, with a few of the experienced senior players still being a part of the team, we have an opportunity to dominate world cricket and be No. 1 in all forms of the game. In one-day cricket we’re pretty close to the top, in Twenty20 we’re No. 1, I don’t think we are that far behind in Tests as well and it will be great to see that happen.”
An important part of that surge towards Test leadership would be a series win against Australia. Kumble said he will there in Nagpur to see whether the team can do that. “Ideally I would have liked to finish in Nagpur,” Kumble said. “At this moment, I don’t think I will be traveling with the team, but I will certainly go to Nagpur. I want to see Sourav’s last Test match, and also wish Laxman on his 100th. And win the series. That is the ultimate goal for all of us. I would like to be a part of that.”
It has been a long road for Kumble – 18 years – on which he has come across many highs and lows. “I had to go through a lot of things in the early part of my career,” Kumble said. “People questioning my ability, my fitness, my form, my bowling and the effectiveness of my bowling. I had to go through that then, now right at the end of my career, and even in the middle.
In that sense, after the shoulder surgery [in 2001], I’ve done exceptionally well to have played eight years. To have bowled so many overs and to have got so many wickets, the second phase was certainly more satisfying. We had a lot more victories, not just in India but also abroad: especially the Australia series in 2004, the Pakistan series after that, West Indies and England where we won. All of them were a challenge and to come out triumphant was special.”
The retirement decision, in the end, came easy for Kumble. “The body tells you how far you can go,” he said. “I kept challenging – as a cricketer you are always competitive, always saying, ‘I can do it’. Whether you can or not only time will tell. I kept getting responses from the body saying that you can’t. I fought that, I took various painkillers and tried all sorts of things, but ultimately one injury to the hand said ‘enough now’. I was also not bowling at my best and you want to keep performing at a level that you are satisfied with. That was not happening so I thought this was the right time to move on.”
For a moment as emotional as this, Kumble ended on a humorous note. “At this moment I would like to thank my family, my parents, who gave me all the encouragement, supported me and asked me to bowl legspin. Although I am still trying to find out how I can bowl legspin.
“Thank you all for all the support I have received right through my career. I’ve built some great friendships and met some fantastic people along the way. You’ll probably start calling me from tomorrow for quotes about somebody else. Give me a break for a couple of days and I’ll certainly take all your calls.” Like he has unfailingly answered the Indian team’s calls for the last 18 years.
One down, four to go. The clock is ticking, and after Sourav Ganguly decided to hang up his boot, it is ticking at a rapid speed for the rest of India’s ‘senior’ players. Anil Kumble has already hinted that he might go the Ganguly way and call it a day after the Australia series. Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, all on the wrong side of 30, will be now facing the heat.
It is just a matter of time before the other pillars of Indian cricket decide or are told that it is time for them to go too. So, what next for the men who have lived with the bat and the ball as constant companions?
Sourav Ganguly: In an international career that has spanned over 16 years, Ganguly has paid keen interest to his off-field businesses. A chain of restaurants are only an add-on to the publishing business his family has owned for decades. ‘Dada’ also has a stake in a multi national sports management company.
Considering his demi-god status in West Bengal, if he considers politics as a career option, it can be safe to say that unlike the Indian selectors, political parties will go all out to have him in their ‘team’.
Sachin Tendulkar: Cricket has always been his life and India’s master batsman will surely have a tough time when he decides to live life after cricket. But he has a thriving business in the form of a restaurant called ‘Tendulkar’s’ in the heart of Mumbai.
Commentary might not be a great idea for Tendulkar for obvious reasons but a cricket academy in his name will surely rake in admissions nineteen to a dozen with the hopes of parents across the nation to breed the ‘next Sachin Tendulkar’.
Anil Kumble: India’s Test captain, Anil Kumble is a qualified mechanical engineer and along with his brother Dinesh, promotes a software company called ‘StumpVision’ which has spinned several softwares for cricket lovers.
With his deep baritone, the eloquent Kumble might be already on the radar of several sports channels to hire him as a TV commentator.
Rahul Dravid: ‘The Wall’ of Indian cricket has had his focus just on the game so far and when he decides to quit, he will need a different thinking hat to consider his options. With his orthodox defence and copybook shotmaking ability, Dravid might do well as a batting coach.
He is also said to be one of the most good looking men to have played the game and a career in movies, can mean India finally gets its first cricketer-turned-filmstar, though he might have to work a tad on his emoting skills.
VVS Laxman: Born in a family of doctors, Laxman made the bat his instrument and with almost surgical precision cut the lethal Aussies in several pieces more than once.
He left his MBBS course midway to take up cricket as a full-time profession. Now that the time to bid adieu to the game is not far, the Hyderabad batsman might like to hit the medical books instead of cricket balls a la Main hoon na.
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