Former India captain Sourav Ganguly, also known as the Prince of Kolkata and the ‘Dada’ of Indian cricket, turns 49 today. Ganguly is one of India’s finest captains and, as a batsman, was regarded as God of the off-side, for his strokeplay on that side of the wicket. In an international career spanning over a decade, he played 113 Tests and 311 ODIs, scoring 7212 and 11363 runs respectively, averaging over 40 in both formats of the game.
Apart from 38 international hundreds, he also claimed 132 wickets and was a handy medium pacer, especially under helpful conditions. As captain, Ganguly won 21 out of 49 Test matches, 11 of them coming overseas.
He also led India in 147 ODIs, of which India won 76 and lost 66. Post-retirement, he shifted focus to administration and is the current president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
As Ganguly turns a year older, we look back at his Top 5 knocks in international cricket.
1. 131 at Lord’s – 2nd Test vs England, June 1996
More than four years after he made a forgettable ODI debut in Australia, Ganguly earned a surprise recall to the Indian team for the England Test tour in 1996. He made full use of his opportunity, striking a memorable hundred at the Mecca of cricket, Lord’s, during the second Test of the three-match series in 1996. England had posted 344 batting first, and Ganguly led India’s response with a serene century. Coming in at No. 3, he struck 131 in 301 balls, occupying the crease for 435 minutes, during which he hit 20 fours. Ganguly’s off-side strokeplay amazed many. It was the first of many such fantastic knocks in international cricket. Rahul Dravid also debuted with 95.
2. 239 at Chinnaswamy Stadium – 3rd Test vs Pakistan, December 2007
By 2007, Ganguly’s international career was very much at a crossroads. He had an ugly spat with Greg Chappell, lost his captaincy and subsequently his place in the national team. But, following Chappell’s unceremonious exit from Indian cricket, Ganguly made a comeback to the Indian team.
His 239 against Pakistan in the third Test in Bengaluru can be regarded as his swansong in international cricket. India batted first and Ganguly was the top-scorer as the hosts put up a mammoth 626 on the board. The former India captain scored at a brisk pace, getting his runs off 361 balls with the aid of 30 fours and two sixes.
He was at the crease for over 500 minutes. Yuvraj Singh and Irfan Pathan also hit hundreds in the drawn encounter. Ganguly scored 91 in the second innings to make it an unforgettable Test for him.
3. 124 at Dhaka – Independence Cup 3rd final vs Pakistan, January 1998
One of Ganguly’s finest one-day knocks came in the deciding final of the 1998 Independence Cup against Pakistan at Dhaka. Pakistan had batted first in the third final and had amassed 314 for 5 on the back of Saeed Anwar’s 140 and Ijaz Ahmed’s 117. Ganguly led India’s response with a combative 124.
He added a whirlwind 71 for the opening wicket with Sachin Tendulkar (41) and then featured in a massive stand of 179 with Robin Singh (82), who was promoted to No. 3. Ganguly hit 11 fours and a six in his 138-ball knock to keep India in the hunt. Battling cramps, he eventually succumbed to Aaqib Javed before Hrishikesh Kanitkar hit that famous four off Saqlain Mushtaq to take India home.
4. 141 not out at Nairobi – ICC KnockOut 2nd semi-final vs South Africa, October 2000
Ganguly was in sublime form with the willow and he batted right through the 50 overs in the second semi-final of the ICC KnockOut in October 2000 against South Africa. India elected to bat after winning first and Ganguly led from the front with a mature hundred.
His hitting over the top in this innings stood out as the left-hander creamed as many as 6 sixes to go with his 11 fours. Ganguly remained unbeaten on 141 off 142 balls, caressing 11 fours in his 216-minute stay at the crease.
The southpaw was at total ease against a South African attack featuring Shaun Pollock, Allan Donald, and Jacques Kallis. Rahul Dravid contributed 58 as India put up 295 for 6 and won the semis by 95 runs.
5. 183 at Taunton – 21st match of 1999 World Cup vs Sri Lanka, May 1999
On some days, you can do no wrong with the bat. It was that kind of a day for Sourav Ganguly in the 1999 World Cup clash against Sri Lanka at Taunton. India lost Sadagoppan Ramesh early after which Ganguly and Dravid went absolutely berserk. The legendary duo featured in an unforgettable partnership of 318 for the second wicket. Ganguly smashed 183 in only 158 balls, blasting 17 fours and as many as seven sixes in his knock, which came at a strike rate of 115.82.
The standout feature of Ganguly’s innings was his attack on the Lankan spinners, constantly charging down the track to them and hitting them out of the park. He never looked in any kind of trouble out in the middle as the Sri Lankan bowlers suffered at his hands.
The otherwise reliable Chaminda Vaas went for 84 in his 10 overs, Eric Upashantha for 80 while Pramodya Wickramasinghe and Muttiah Muralitharan also conceded in excess of six runs per over. Sanath Jayasuriya bowled only three overs, in which he was taken for 37 runs.
Ganguly nearly batted right through the innings and was only dismissed off the penultimate ball of the innings. Dravid also contributed a magnificent 145 as India posted a mammoth 373 for 6 and then rolled over Sri Lanka for 216.