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Sourav Ganguly — the comeback man

S. Dinakar

He has brought about key technical adjustments in his game

— Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

TERRIFIC RETURN: Sourav Ganguly is now in the form of his life, contributing with both bat and ball.

Bangalore: For Sourav Ganguly, it was a race against time. The flight from Mumbai to Johannesburg had been a long one and he swiftly boarded the car to the student town of Potchefstroom.

This was a three-hour drive through a busy highway. Jet-lagged he was and his legs ached. A shower at the team-hotel and he was quickly transported to the cricket ground

“Welcome back,” a voice boomed and soon a tall man stretched out his hand. Greg Chappell welcomed Ganguly during the Indian team practice session. The Dada had reached his destination.

Just about everyone, including the scribes, expected Ganguly to miss the practice that day and he would not have been blamed had he given the session a slip.

Clear signs

The signs were clear — the Dada was committed on his comeback. Not many expected him to get runs either in the tour game against the South Africa ‘A’ side on a juicy track and against a bunch of lively pacemen. After all, how could someone considered past his prime adjust so quickly to pace, bounce and seam movement.

Ganguly walked in when Morne Morkel & Co had sliced through a weighty chunk of the line-up. Then, he batted like a dream. He was probed out-side the off-stump, peppered with short-pitched deliveries and tested with yorkers. The left-hander responded with steel, solidity and a blaze of shots.

It was clear that he had brought about key technical adjustments in his game. His stance was more upright and his back-lift smaller and straighter. Earlier, he was falling over. Now, he was balanced and surer out-side the off-stump. And he was playing closer to the body.

Even as he sipped a drink in the evening, Chappell said, “I have never seen him bat better.”

Chappell, an honest straight-talking man, gave Ganguly the credit. A lot was made of the Chappell-Ganguly showdown and the confrontation was unfortunate. But it did make Ganguly introspect and return a better batsman and a cricketer. In Ganguly’s comeback, Chappell deserves some credit.

The 35-year-old Ganguly is now in the form of his life; he could middle the ball in sleep. He has made runs on pitches with pace and lift in South Africa, conjured a couple of gems when the ball swung around in England and has built monuments with delicate stroke-play against Pakistan.

As a left-hander in the middle-order, he adds a lot to the line-up. The manner in which he timed the ball on a surface of low bounce at the Chinnaswamy Stadium was astonishing. These were the shots of a gifted cricketer.

Ganguly’s commitment shone through in his bowling. Despite the tour of Australia looming, he ran in hard and stretched every sinew. Not for a moment was he concerned about picking up an injury while performing what was only an occasional job. This, really, has been the highlight of his triumphant comeback. And we are not talking about numbers here.

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