Kochi: If the heckling in Bangalore pierced his heart, the rapturous welcome here on Thursday afternoon comforted Sourav Ganguly. 'Oof, it was madness... But, yes, the affection couldn't be missed,' he told The Telegraph.
Few knew the Team India captain would be on the same Air Sahara flight (from Hyderabad) as the Pakistan squad, yet when word got around, hundreds parked themselves at the arrivals' exit for the closest look.
As a result, Sourav almost got crushed and Board secretary S. K. Nair had a tough time whisking him away ' despite the presence of top cops.
Incidentally, it was in Kochi a shade over five years ago that Sourav began captaincy full-time. Having started with a win (against South Africa) should help lift his confidence even more ahead of the first ODI versus Pakistan.
This six-match series is probably going to test the captain like never before. He appears ready...
Actually, given the frenzy here, it's hard believing many are screaming for Sourav's head. In fact, it was business as usual for autograph seekers ' and the odd camera-phonewallah ' in Calcutta as well where he began his journey.
It wasn't much different on the flight to Hyderabad either: Sourav had just about unbuckled his seat belt when Chandru NT, chairman and CEO of a Jakarta-based company, wished him for the series and extended an invitation to 'spend a few days' in the Indonesian capital.
Be it the fans or that NRI, nobody had to make a gesture. Yet, they did ' quite like a senior Team India member, who sent a sentimental SMS some 24 hours after the Bangalore Test defeat.
The senior had been out of form, not too long ago, but was backed by Sourav and coach John Wright. Grateful for that support, he urged the captain not to lose faith in his own ability.
On Wednesday, vice-captain Rahul Dravid had soothing words for Sourav.
Sourav has had a disappointing season in Tests and hit rock-bottom (48 runs in five innings) against Pakistan. However, even the best have a horrendous run: Dravid went through 16 innings without a fifty during a 13-month period in 1999-2000.
Since then, he hasn't looked back.
The janata being impatient towards Sourav is strange. Ironically, he himself wasn't the least bit so in dealing with the Virender Sehwags and Yuvraj Singhs, not to speak of the Harbhahjans. Each one of them delivered.
Team India did cut a sorry picture on the fourth and fifth afternoon in Bangalore, but that can't be reason enough to hang Sourav. He's guilty of failing to check Pakistan's surge in the second innings, but on the series' final day, was only one among many failures.
It wasn't the best moment when Sourav had to remind the world that the series hadn't been lost. Yet, at times, that's necessary. In any case, most seemed to have forgotten the fantastic win at the Eden a mere eight days before the capitulation in Bangalore.
Even if some feel (and with good reasons) that Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi will remain our finest captain, nobody can take away Sourav's achievement of being India's most successful in Tests.
Of course, the anti-Sourav campaign could have gained momentum had the next Test series been weeks and not months (September, in Zimbabwe) away. Over the fortnight, though, the captain has opportunities to cancel out somewhat the recent Test failures.
For the record, Sourav is 64 short of becoming the third entrant into the 10,000 ODI runs' club. Sachin Tendulkar and Inzamam-ul Haq have preceded him. The quicker he gets there, the better.
Footnote: A former Board president opposed to Jagmohan Dalmiya has 'vowed' to remove Sourav if the opposition manages to end the Calcutta-based administrator's hold. That won't be possible before September. More important, is the Team India captaincy going to be linked to the Board's messy politics' The gentleman needs to be told that nobody has done Sourav, who has changed our body language, a favour. Pseudo politicians don't have to decide his future.