| Sourav Ganguly, who scored his 20th century Sunday, in Durban Monday. (Reuters)
Durban: After quite some time, Sourav Ganguly looked relaxed Sunday evening. A few hours earlier, India had won big against Namibia and the captain himself returned to the pleasing business of making runs.
“Does feel good but, then, the job is unfinished. What’s very satisfying, of course, is that we’ve begun a big week on such a positive note,” Sourav told The Telegraph at the team hotel (Golden Horse) in Pietermaritzburg.
Usually, the captain keeps himself updated on statistics but, possibly because of the pressures of a World Cup, it didn’t quite register that he is now the sole No.2 on the list of ODI century-makers.
Sachin Tendulkar is No.1 with 34 centuries.
“Somehow, I didn’t realise I’ve left Saeed Anwar behind (on 19)... Actually, it’s a super feeling to have got into the 20s... Do I have a number in mind' Oh, no... I’ve got five-six years left... Let’s see where I finish,” Sourav remarked, grinning.
With the out-of-form Anwar likely to quit after the World Cup, Sourav’s challengers are Sanath Jayasuriya and Brian Lara, both of whom have 16 centuries. Incidentally, Sourav has the highest regard for all three.
“Look, I’d gone ten games without even a fifty and, clearly, the time had come to get a century... Not that I took many liberties but, initially, I was only intent on getting my eye in... Not having got runs for some months, target No.1 was to get past the first 30 or so... From then on, the confidence kept growing,” he explained.
But has the quality of the Namibian attack somewhat diluted the century'
Sourav was emphatic in answering: “A century remains a century and is recorded as one. Some years down the line, I definitely won’t look back and say that the innings was of no relevance. Moreover, it’s a World Cup century...”
It’s an amazing coincidence that the captain has got runs (overseas) each time he has practised with wet tennis balls on match eve. While Sourav made that Man of the Match award- winning 98 not out in the Kandy Test (August 2001), he got an unbeaten 112 in Pietermaritzburg.
“Yes, it’s a coincidence but, as I’ve said, God also takes care of me,” the captain insisted, as he headed for his room to complete a painful exercise — packing.
Red carpet welcome
Meanwhile, the Indians arrived here Monday afternoon and the team hotel (Holiday Inn Elangeni) accorded a red carpet welcome. In fact, there was an unusual ‘guard of honour’, via an arch made by bats held by staffers. It only confirmed that the support base is huge.
Expectedly, much of the attention was on Ashish Nehra, who twisted his left ankle during the Namibia game. The left-arm quick, though, got off the team bus without support and was comfortable walking in sandals. He is undergoing “extensive treatment” from physio Andrew Leipus.
However, late in the day, there were whispers that Nehra had suffered a muscle tear. Leipus, though, quickly scotched it. “It’s a ligament sprain (only), but a decision on his playing (vs England, Wednesday) will be taken that day itself...”
Should Nehra be unavailable, plans to retain the XI which did duty in Harare and Pietermaritzburg will take a blow. The door, then, is expected to open for Ajit Agarkar.