It was in the centre of the Indian subcontinent that an incident so moving and poignant occurred. A new sunrise paving the way for a beautiful sunset and vice-versa. Indian cricket looked graceful.
It was November 10, 2008 — India were leading 1-0 in a four Test match series against Australia — the final day of the final Test at Nagpur. Above all, they were the final few hours of Ganguly’s international career.
He stepped into the field for one last time for India to regain what gave him the early recognition — the Border Gavaskar Trophy. And what is even more fortuitous is that it was Harbhajan Singh who bagged the final Australian wicket to win the series.
Anil Kumble had retired after the third Test at Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi. So, Harbhajan and Amit Mishra continued the legacy of bundling out the opposition. Australia fell short by 172 runs. And when India’s victory looked certain, Dhoni who had just acquired the captaincy baton from Kumble, requested Ganguly to lead. The southpaw obliged.
In this very match, Ganguly fell 15 short of what would have been his 17th Test century. He led India in 49 Tests, winning 21 and losing 13. On the other hand, Dhoni won 27 of the 60 Test matches he captained. No need to mention their exploits in shorter formats.
Ganguly writes in his autobiography: “As the match came to a close, Mahendra Singh Dhoni in a surprise gesture asked me to lead. I had rejected his offer earlier in the day, but could not refuse a second time. Ironically, my captaincy career had begun exactly eight years ago on this very day. I handled the bowling changes and field placements while the last Australian wicket batted.” He then admitted, “I found it difficult to focus. So, after three overs I handed it back to Dhoni saying, it is your job, MS. We both smiled.”
As the two guiding lights of Indian cricket finish another trip around the sun — Dhoni’s turning 40 yesterday and Ganguly 49 today — let’s wish them a very happy birthday!