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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Ganguly finds reason to smile

Ganguly finds reason to smile

August 04, 2005 14:04 IST

From the moment he made his India debut as a cocky teenager nearly 14 years ago, Sourav Ganguly has faced criticism for both his game and attitude.

He has bounced back each time but the combative player appeared to be finally running out of luck after a prolonged batting slump was compounded by a lengthy ban in April for his team's slow over rate.

The six-game ban was reduced by two after a second appeal by the International Cricket Council last week but Rahul Dravid was named captain for the Sri Lanka one-day series to trigger a media debate over the regular captain's future.

Ganguly, 33, found reason for cheer on Wednesday on return after the ban, completing 10,000 one-day runs to become only the third batsman to achieve the feat against the hosts.

He emulated his compatriot Sachin Tendulkar and Pakistan's Inzamam-ul Haq, eventually making 51 for his 60th one-day fifty.

The effort could not have come at a better time.

The absence of a Test or one-day hundred since 2003 and fitness worries had led to uncertainty over India's captain since 2000.

Some critics felt batting woes were affecting his captaincy, particularly in one-dayers where India have not won a series featuring more than two teams since 2002.

Prior to Wednesday's knock, Ganguly had hit only nine fifties in 42 one-day innings since his 111 not out against Kenya at the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.

EARLY TROUBLE

Ganguly's career almost ended before it began.

He made a forgettable start, discarded after his India debut as a teenager in 1991-92 with critics blaming his poor attitude.

He made a superb comeback in 1996, scoring hundreds in his first two Tests on debut in England, going on to seal his place as one half of the most successful one-day batting pair alongside Tendulkar.

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Ganguly's batting stood out for his flowing off-side shots, but opposing bowlers soon began to exploit his weakness against short-pitched deliveries aimed at his rib cage.

He became captain in 2000 after Tendulkar abruptly quit the job following a 3-0 Test series rout in Australia. His batting inconsistency was papered over as he added steel to the side.

Linking up with New Zealander John Wright, appointed India's first foreign coach, Ganguly moulded the likes of off spinner Harbhajan Singh and middle-order batsman Yuvraj Singh, who had been slammed for their poor attitude soon after their debuts.

He led India to their greatest Test series triumph in 2001 when they registered a stunning 2-1 comeback home series victory over champions Australia.

He led the team to a creditable 1-1 Test series draw in England and a share of the Champions Trophy with hosts Sri Lanka in 2002 before guiding them to a fighting 1-1 Test series draw in Australia in early 2004.

Ganguly then led India to an historic maiden Test series triumph against Pakistan in 2004, becoming India's most successful Test captain. He now has 19 wins.

However, injuries and poor batting form since then have led critics to question his selection, particularly after he sat out the last two games during a 2-1 home series defeat by Australia last year.

The April ban was the latest in a series of infringements by a player with a poor disciplinary record.

Ganguly was suspended from a one-dayer each in 2000 and 2001 for boorish behaviour. He was handed a two-Test ban in 2004 for his team's slow over rate before he successfully appealed.

Cricket-mad India is already debating whether Dravid in his prime batting form should take over as captain permanently. The answer will come when India tour Zimbabwe later this month.

Wednesday's landmark effort should at least ease Ganguly's batting concerns to an extent.
N.Ananthanarayanan
Source:
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