The Comeback Prince

The Comeback Prince
Image Source: @GettyImages

The Comeback Prince

The rift between the captain and the coach of Team India in 2006 led to the sacking of Sourav Ganguly as captain who was eventually dropped from the team.

Amid the uproar on the exclusion of one of the 3 most dynamic figures in Indian cricket, India had been batting poorly in the limited-overs. Ordinary performance in the 2006-Champions Trophy and the 0-4 whitewash in the ODI series against the Proteas made sure Ganguly was called back for the Test series against South Africa.

Few saw it as a move from Vengasarkar, the then BCCI chairman of selectors, to get rid of the southpaw once and for all. Ganguly had been averaging 32 vs Proteas in Tests and against an attack of Steyn, Ntini, Pollock, Andre Nel, and Kallis it was highly unlikely for the 34-year old to succeed.

Desperate to prove the quality of cricket left in him, Ganguly did not leave hope when everyone else had. He was written off even by his family who thought it would be difficult to get back in the scheme of things. He worked hard on his batting, went back to domestic cricket, and got runs against his name.

Dada's grittiness and 10 months of preparation came to the rescue on the bowling-friendly green decks of South Africa where he ended up accumulating most runs for India on the tour.

The Practice Match
A low-scoring affair where batsmen averaged just 22.1 saw Ganguly score an excellent 83 in the first innings. Irfan Pathan got a 111 too, being the only other Indian batsman to reach 50 including both innings.
Adjudged the Man of the Match, Irfan was still left out from the 1st Test.

The Comeback Knock
Hopeful for Dada's success after seeing some form in the practice match, all eyes were on him in the 1st innings of the 1st Test. As India got bundled out for 249, Dada was unbeaten with sole fifty for the team. It turned out to be extremely important runs in victory as India lost the next 2 Tests and resultingly, the series.
The 101 balls he faced in that knock is one of the fiercest example of defiance.
The protests, the Parliament discussions, and the famous Pepsi ad would be seen in a very different light today, had he failed.

Dada went on to have a good series and was the leading run-scorer for India at an impressive average of 42.8 while the Indian Top5 averaged just 29.1
To quote him,
"This is was the finest cricket I have played in the last 17 months."

Until retirement, Dada was impeccable with the bat, especially in Tests. In fact, since his comeback to retirement, nobody scored more test runs for India than Ganguly.
1991: Ganguly
1804: Sachin
1683: Laxman
1442: Sehwag
1317: Dravid
1123: Dhoni

Even in ODIs he had been contributing regularly. In India's forgettable 2007 WC campaign, he was averaging 50+ with almost the same runs as the leading run-scorer for India-Sehwag.

He signed off from international cricket as an improved batsman on a much-deserving high.

Dada's Average in Internationals
Till he was Dropped: 40.7 (410 inns)
After the Comeback: 45.5 (78 inns)

In a way, Ganguly would be thankful for all the bumps and bruises that came his way in that fateful year of 2006. The true fighter in him became an inspiration to many of how to overcome the greatest of hurdles.

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