| Sourav Ganguly celebrates after his half-century in Nagpur on Sunday. India beat the West Indies by 14 runs in the first ODI. (AFP)
Nagpur, Jan. 21: For 16 months the selectors thought he didn’t fit the Team India shirt. This morning, the shirt didn’t fit Sourav Ganguly.
“The jersey that had my name on the back wasn’t fitting comfortably. You cannot bat with a tight jersey. So.…”
So he had to borrow one from Suresh Raina’s kit. Just as well.
A tight jersey would have cramped the punch in the air with which the once blacklisted cricketer today announced he was back in the business.
Millions of fans in the country missed it because telecast rights holder Nimbus wouldn’t share the feed with Doordarshan. His hometown was doubly unlucky: 85 per cent of Calcutta had to turn to the news channels to learn that their hero had fallen just two short of a century in his mother-of-comebacks match.
Neo Sports, which telecast the game, was available only to the city’s CAS subscribers with set-top boxes. That includes a certain household in Behala, but Dona Ganguly still missed most of the 11 fours and three sixes with which her husband peppered the small ground in his 109-ball knock.
“I watched Sourav score some 25 runs, then had to leave for my dance school. It would have been really nice had he scored a century.”
Yet, the satisfaction of a battle won was showing in the man of the moment’s face as he shared a table with coach Greg Chappell, bio-mechanist Ian Frazer and selectors Dilip Vengsarkar and Sanjay Jagdale at the end of the match.
So has the wheel turned full circle' Sourav would offer only a smile.
“There was obviously a bit of tension and pressure going into a one-dayer after 16 months, but once I took guard the rest fell into place. There was no point to prove and I’m happy with the innings,” he told The Telegraph.
How high does today’s knock rank' “Certainly somewhere at the top. The conditions weren’t easy for someone making a comeback. The bowling was good.”
Sourav, who battled cramps midway through his innings and didn’t field, isn’t ruing that fatal hesitation in responding to Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s call.
The batsman had begun to walk back even before Billy Bowden had asked for the third umpire’s verdict. Once it was official, the entire team, including Chappell, stood up and applauded. So did Rahul Dravid, making his way in.
“Sourav’s was a very good innings. Even Gautam Gambhir batted well. Both showed their spirit and hunger,” the captain later said.
That won’t be enough to appease Calcutta, where many called for his head. “India will win the World Cup only if Sourav is the captain,” said former cricketer Raju Mukherjee, echoing the text messages flying around.
The visiting captain was equally impressed. “Sourav played well and laid the foundation. He’s a player of high class and we expect such performances from him. It takes a lot of courage and merit to make a comeback from such situations,” Brian Lara said.
Was there anything to read in that jump, his fist pumping, following his half-century' No, “it was more out of enthusiasm”, Sourav said.
The cramps have almost healed but the knock on the right arm, while trying to pull Jerome Taylor, still hurts. It will not stop Sourav from taking guard on Wednesday in Cuttack.
The city may just get to watch it, too, with Neo’s distributors and the cable industry in talks to solve their dispute. As for DD viewers, they may take solace from another Bengal Tiger’s roar.
I&B minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi hit out at the “unpatriotic” Nimbus. “We cannot allow them to plunder in India and take all the money,” he said, promising a new law to force private broadcasters to share feed of important sport events with DD.