Sourav Ganguly’s incredible journey: From being a 'controversial' selection to BCCI President

Renin Wilben Albert

Sourav Ganguly will be the BCCI's next President.

Former India captain Sourav Ganguly is all set to take over as the new president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) from October 23rd. While Ganguly will be the President, Jay Shah, son of Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, will be the new BCCI Secretary and Anurag Thakur’s brother Arun Dhumal will be the board's new Treasurer.

Speaking to the media after filing his nomination on Monday, Ganguly said that one of his major aims would be to put Indian cricket back on track.

"Hopefully in the next few months, we can put everything in place and bring back normalcy in Indian cricket.”

Ganguly also added that he never aspired to be the BCCI President but has taken up the challenge as the opportunity came to him.

"I had never expressed my aspirations for this post. I never spoke to anyone.”

The President of the Cricket Association of Bengal is no stranger to challenges. In 2000, he took over the reins as captain of the Indian cricket team after Sachin Tendulkar stepped aside and transformed a young side into potential world beaters.

In this feature, we look back at Ganguly’s journey from being a controversial pick on his international debut to becoming the chief of the world’s richest cricketing body.

Inauspicious debut

Sourav Ganguly has come a long way since his debut.

Much before he became the Prince of Indian cricket, Ganguly had a horror initiation into international cricket. He was chosen for India’s tour of Australia in 1991-92, which in itself turned out to be a disastrous outing for the entire Indian team.

Ganguly made his ODI debut in the match against West Indies at Brisbane, on January 11 1992. Ganguly struggled, making only three runs from 13 balls and was trapped lbw by Anderson Cummins before losing his place in the squad.

More than his one failure though, it was his attitude that came into focus. There were allegations that he was rich, spoilt and not a team player. He was even said to have refused to carry drinks on to the field for a senior player, a claim Ganguly has denied.

In his biography ‘A Century Is Not Good Enough’, Ganguly maintains that it was he who was actually mistreated on his first tour. According to him, a legendary player from that squad told him that he didn’t deserve to be on that tour. Ganguly further stated that Sanjay Manjrekar asked him to behave properly and improve his attitude, something the former India skipper found inexplicable.

Also see – World Test Championship points table

Controversial’ selection that changed Indian cricket

Sourav Ganguly's maiden Test ton came in 1996 debut against England.

After spending four years away from international cricket, Ganguly was recalled to the Indian side in 1996 for their tour of England. As with most things related to Ganguly, he return too wasn’t without controversy.

There were widespread allegations that Ganguly made a comeback through the informal East Zone quota system. All the aversions around the left-hander were soon put on the back burner as Ganguly made an imperious Test debut at Lord’s -- scoring 131 from 301 balls with 20 fours. Another debutant, who would go on to become a legend of Indian cricket -- Rahul Dravid -- narrowly missed out on a ton, falling for 95.

In his very next Test at Trent Bridge, he proved that his debut hundred was no fluke, scoring 136 from 268 balls with 17 fours and two sixes. Sachin Tendulkar made 177 and Dravid chipped in with 84 as India posted 521. Ganguly’s stunning arrival with flowing off-drives was something never seen before in Indian cricket. Although the visitors lost the series 0-1, Ganguly had well and truly arrived.

Start of a glorious partnership

Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly were one of the most feared batting duos of their generation.

Ganguly opened for the first time in ODIs during the Titan Cup at Jaipur on October 23, 1996. This was the beginning of his fruitful partnership with Sachin Tendulkar. In that match, the duo added 126 runs, with Tendulkar making 64 and Ganguly contributing 54.

Although India went on to lose the match by 27 runs, it set the tone for things to come as Ganguly and Tendulkar went on to dominate one-day cricket for the better part of the next decade.

Ganguly and Tendulkar remain the most prolific one-day opening partnership in world cricket. They opened together in 136 innings, and amassed 6609 runs at an average of 49.32, with 21 hundreds and 23 fifties between the two and a highest partnership of 258.

The left hand-right hand combination, when in form, gave bowlers around the world a harried time. The success of the Tendulkar-Ganguly combination can be gauged from the fact that no other opening ODI pair in history has scored 6000 runs.

Captain in command

Captain Sourav Ganguly holds the NatWest tri-series trophy aloft in 2002.

Ganguly took over as captain Indian cricket team during tumultuous times, at the height of the match-fixing saga. Tendulkar was unable to bear the pressure of the circumstances and resigned from captaincy with Indian cricket on the decline. However, Ganguly lifted the team out of morky waters, bringing together a bunch of talented youngsters who would go on to stamp their authority in world cricket.

Under Ganguly’s stewardship, India went on to beat one of the strongest ever Australian sides 2-1 at home in 2001, in what is regarded as one of the greatest Test series’ ever. India further went on to make the finals of the 2003 World Cup, which they went on to lose against Australia.

With Ganguly at the helm, India also started winning Tests abroad -- most notably holding Australia to a 1-1 series draw Down Under in 2003-04. Then, there was also that infamous shirtless celebration on Lord’s balcony after winning the 2002 NatWest tri-series final against England.

India also beat Pakistan in Pakistan in both the Tests and one-day series. He formed a memorable pairing with John Wright as coach although both did not see eye-to-eye on many issues. Ganguly’s captaincy saw a number of players evolve into genuine match-winners -- Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Mohammad Kaif among others.

Decline and fracas with Greg Chappell

Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell.

Ganguly’s downfall as a leader and cricketer began in 2004, when he pulled out of the Nagpur Test against Australia. Ganguly was allegedly unhappy with the grass on the surface. India went on to lose the series, and critics started baying for Ganguly’s head. His own poor form also did not help matters.

Things took a turn for the worse when Ganguly and coach Greg Chappell’s spat played out in a public manner. During the tour of Zimbabwe in 2005, Ganguly went public with his dislike over the coach’s suggestion that he step down from captaincy owing to his poor form.

Chappell’s response was that he had only given an honest opinion when asked by the captain for this views, that too in a private meeting. However, once the fracas was out in the open, allegations and counter claims flew thick and fast.

The irony was that Ganguly had recommended Chappell for the role of coach after the latter had helped him during the 2004 Australia tour, which saw Ganguly make the tone-setting 144 at the Gabba. Ganguly’s tenure as captain ended after Rahul Dravid was appointed as skipper in November 2005.

In and out before final exit

Sourav Ganguly was not regularly picked after stepping down as captain.

Once he lost captaincy, Ganguly was not a permanent fixture in the Indian team during the Dravid-Chappell era. However, he still had a few shining moments. He scored a crucial half-century in the 2006 Johannesburg Test, which India famously went on to win. Surprisingly for many, he ended up as the highest scorer for India in the series. Ganguly even picked up a man-of-the-series award for his performance against Pakistan at home in November-December 2007. This included his first century at Eden Gardens and a double hundred at Bangalore.

Following a middling Test series in Australia, where he scored 235 runs, he was axed for the series to follow. Ganguly later scored a priceless 87 on a crumbling batting surface at Kanpur against South Africa to help India clinch a win.

Amidst growing speculation about his future, Ganguly announced his retirement prior to the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2008, stating the series against would be his last. He signed off with 85 and 0 (first ball) in his farewell Test at Nagpur.

In 2015, Ganguly was appointed as the President of the Cricket Association of Bengal and is now all set to take over the the top job at the BCCI as a new challenge awaits.