Sports

DOWN CRICKET LANE

Written by Omair Alavi

Omair Alavi|Published June 24, 2018

Former Indian cricketer Sourav Ganguly is an inspiring individual. He was one of those rare Indian captains who instilled faith in his national team that it could win anywhere and against any opposition. He led the Indian squad to victories on international tours and helped create an XI that reached the final of the World Cup. India won it a few years after his retirement from international cricket.

In his autobiography, A Century Is Not Enough: My Roller Coaster Ride to Success, Ganguly opens up about his life as a cricketer that began as a nervous teenager and ended with the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Co-authored with senior sports writer Gautam Bhattacharya, the book answers many questions that a Ganguly fan might ask, such as: how did he feel about scoring two centuries in his first two Tests? What was going through his mind when he was batting on 85 in his final Test? How did he tackle the world’s fastest bowlers — from West Indian Malcolm Marshall to South African Dale Steyn — and why did he not use his friends in the press to expose his detractors when he was going through a turbulent phase?

It was under Ganguly’s captaincy that India managed to halt the success of Steve Waugh’s Australia, defeat Pakistan in Pakistan, win the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy and reach the final of nearly all the major ICC tournaments, including the World Cup. Why he didn’t play the inaugural T20 World Cup, who was the captain he loved playing under and what it was like to be praised all over the world are some of the other things Ganguly explains in the book.

Ganguly is a cricketer who makes friends wherever he goes and this book will add to his reputation, despite not touching upon a lot of things from his career. For example, not much is written on the match-fixing scandal which raised its head during the time Ganguly was playing. He was the captain of the Indian side when former South African skipper, the late Hansie Cronje, was exposed, yet he doesn’t say much about that. Neither does he talk about his life outside cricket or how he spends his time post-retirement. Even then, the book is better than other autobiographies penned by Indian cricketers. It has relevant information that a cricket lover wants to know and it would be interesting for his admirers to read how Ganguly felt when, as a 19-year-old, a senior team member told him that his selection was a mistake.

The most interesting chapter in the book, however, features arch-rivals Pakistan. For Ganguly, it was anything but rivalry. In the entire chapter dedicated to Pakistan, the southpaw writes about his multiple tours to this side of the Wagah border, his many wins against the Greenshirts and the many losses that helped him understand the game better. The contemporaries and colleagues from Pakistan that he’s all praise for include Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Zaheer Abbas. It will surely make you feel proud because not many Indian cricketers would accept that.


Seven Ganguly facts from the book

• He credits West Indian Desmond Haynes and Imran Khan as idols who advised him when he needed them the most and Zaheer Abbas for correcting his batting stance when he was out of form.
• Captain Azharuddin gave him a watch after his twin centuries against England in his debut Test series.
• He ditched security to visit Lahore’s food street while on the Pakistan tour.
• Former president Gen Pervez Musharraf called him to be careful the next time he wanted to ditch security to roam around.
• Greg Chappell and selector Kiran More hated him so much that they joined hands to drop him from the team.
• He considers Shoaib Akhtar and Saeed Anwar as his closest friends in the Pakistan camp.
• His tenure with the Kolkata Knight Riders and Pune Warriors ended on a troublesome note despite his closeness to the owners.


Then there is the discord with Australian Greg Chappell who, incidentally, was recommended to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) by Ganguly. He was advised against going for Chappell by his mentor Jagmohan Dalmiya and Sunil Gavaskar, but Ganguly went for him anyway and paid the price: not only was he removed from the captaincy, but was also dropped from the side. The master blaster dedicates a full chapter to the Chappell saga and how it affected India who later crashed out of the World Cup during that period. Ganguly blames him for disrupting the team and he was proven right because India started winning as soon as Chappell went out of the equation.

The narrative of the book will remind readers of the way Dada (as Ganguly was fondly called by his teammates) batted in his heyday, without caring much about the outcome. His respect for seniors such as Kapil Dev and New Zealander John Wright as well as his fellow players whom he backed when he was captain will make readers respect the former Indian cricketer even more.

The reviewer writes about film, television and popular culture

A Century is Not Enough: My Roller
Coaster Ride to Success
By Sourav Ganguly and Gautam
Bhattacharya
Juggernaut, India
ISBN: 978-9386228567
296pp.

Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, June 24th, 2018

About the author

Omair Alavi