After 16 years of fighting everyone – from Australians to Indian cricket pundits, Dada has finally decided to drive away from the test cricket pitch. It is a sad day indeed and would be obviously sadder when the actual day finally lands – possibly the fifth day of the Nagpur test in November.
His esteemed rival, Steve Waugh brought the entire SCG crowd to tears overshadowing what had been an engrossing series in 2003-4. What would be the farewell for Dada? Usha Uthup singing an elegy? Sachin saying a few words? Harbhajan Singh doing a bhangra? Flintoff taking his shirt out and swirling it around? We have to simply wait and see?
India’s loss is Shahrukh’s gain – he now gets Dada to completely focus on the Kolkata Knight Riders and justifying his multi-crore salary.
For me, Dada can be remembered for five things (both positive and negative)
Note: This is a random order
1. Dropping out of the Nagpur test match in 2004 – on getting a green top, Ganguly claimed back injury and dropped out, apparently peeved with the nature of the pitch and the lack of response from the groundsmen. As a captain (and given his immense stature), this was not done.
2. Fostering a new generation – Taking over the captaincy from Sachin Tendulkar in 2000, his tenure began with the match fixing bomb – senior players banned, many Ranji Trophy regulars under doubt, general credibility of Indian cricket shattered. Investing in new, untested players and backing them to the hilt required a boldness and belief of a different order – Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag gave him and India great ROI (and continue to do so). Like all investors, there were some which did not sustain – Mohammad Kaif, Parthiv Patel, Dinesh Mongia, S Ramesh, Shiv Sunder Das to name a few.
3. His off side play – Enough has been said about his off side. One still remembers the look on Jacques Kallis’ face (South Africa series 2001-2 in South Africa – the Mark Denness series) as he peppered a 7-2 off side field with square cuts and square drives
4. Intentionality – There are many things he does / did / does not / did not that will anger or annoy the cricket coach, purists and the pundits – be it his work rate, fitness regimen, attitude, etc. However, whenever he pulled himself and focused on something, it just magically would work for him – the century at Lord’s (after being written off by Sunil Gavaskar as a quota selection and not fit to be in the team; he got in at the expense of Sanjay Manjrekar or Vinod Kambli if I remember right, a Mumbai player anyway); the 144 in Brisbane (2003-4); the 87* against Kings XI Punjab; the comeback into team after the Greg Chappell enforced vacation in 2005-2006;
5. Straight lofted six off Muralitharan – He may been dismissed by Murali many times but when he hits Murali for six, it is a sight to behold – Jumping down the pitch and timing to perfection. Even in the recent lousy series against Sri Lanka, one got to see one such six. A pity, he could not do more of them.
Anyway, as far as Indian cricket is concerned, it’s one down, five to go. Any guesses when is Tendulkar’s turn?