| Steve Waugh during the Calcutta Test
London, Sept. 2: Sourav Ganguly has revealed the real reason why India achieved an historic win against Australia at Eden Gardens in the winter of 2000-1 in a landmark new book on cricket being published in London tomorrow.
In Ground Rules, which looks at the game through the most important Test playing venues in the world — in India, Edens Gardens and the M A Chidambaram in Chennai have been picked — Ganguly discloses how “sledging” by the Australian captain, Steve Waugh, fired up India at a time when the visitors could probably have saved the match.
In their second innings, Australia were required to make 384 to win after India had scored a mammoth 657 after being asked to follow on. “Australia got off to a solid start with Michael Slater and Hayden putting on 74 in 23 overs but once Slater went we were in with a chance,” recalls Ganguly .
“Just before tea when they were only three wickets down I dropped a sharp chance off Steve Waugh at backward short leg. Maybe if he had said nothing, the game would have drifted to a draw, the result that appeared to be its natural conclusion,” adds Ganguly in the book, made exclusively available to The Telegraph ahead of publication.
He goes on: “But he could not resist the chirp, ‘You just dropped the Test, mate’.” Ganguly reflects: “Sometimes sledging can work against you and, on this occasion, it had the effect of geeing up the Indians.”
The rest is history. “Immediately after tea, Harbhajan got Waugh out and Dravid gave him a send-off from slip asking who had given away the Test match now.”
Ground Rules (cost £45) is being brought out by Dakini Books, which last published a volume called Bollywood: Popular Indian Cinema. The book will be launched in other venues, including Eden Gardens on November 17 when Ganguly has indicated he is free to do the honours.
In his essay on Calcutta, Ganguly points out that Tendulkar broke a jinx by scoring 176 against the West Indies at Eden Gardens in October last year. It was his first Test century on the ground.
Ganguly, too, has never scored a century on the ground where he first saw a Test match when he was only four — “as my father was secretary of the Cricket Association of Bengal, I was in and out of Eden Gardens from a very young age”.
Although other contributors to the book, including Steve Waugh who has written about the MCG, can concentrate on the cricket and a venue’s charms, Ganguly, unfortunately, has had to deal with the Calcutta crowd’s traditional bad behaviour over the ages.
There is a photograph of flames leaping up from one of the stands in 1996, with a group of policemen standing in front and doing nothing to douse the fire. Ganguly refers to the 1966-67 riot during the West Indies tour, when the visiting team included Clive Lloyd. “In 1996, I saw the mayhem at first hand when match referee Clive Lloyd awarded a World Cup semi-final to Sri Lanka after poor crowd behaviour had made it difficult for the game to resume,” comments Ganguly.
He goes on: “In retrospect, it was not a big riot at all. There was no fighting, and no one was in any danger. Yet it served to add to Calcutta’s reputation as a riot-centre. As a native of the city, I can only admit to being deeply disappointed and embarrassed by the trouble.”
Objective readers abroad, who might wonder whether Calcutta should be stripped of its Test status, will find some compensation in the tales of cricket legends. Ganguly mentions Mohammed Azharuddin, who “will be forever linked to the ground having made five centuries in his seven Tests there”.
He also refers to Sunil Gavaskar, who has “had a love-hate relationship with Eden Gardens that ended with his refusal to play there during his final Test series”. After Gavaskar had dropped Kapil Dev, the Calcutta crowds threw fruit at Gavaskar’s wife and declared, “No Kapil, no Test”.
“The greatest performance at Eden Gardens, though, certainly in my experience, was V.V.S. Laxman’s 281 against Australia in 2000-1,” he says.