Johannesburg, March 8: For quite some time now, Sourav Ganguly had got accustomed to applauding others. At Newlands last night, the India captain was back to being applauded: Man of the Match, Man of the Moment.
Mobbed at the ground, greeted with “Jai Sourav Ganguly” (by foot soldiers of the Bharat Army, India’s answer to the Barmy outfit) at the team hotel... A congratulatory SMS from Shah Rukh Khan, who is recuperating in London... Being recognised as a performer is heady and Sourav didn’t hide his joy.
“Feels great, yes,” he told The Telegraph, tucking into a club sandwich and sipping strawberry milkshake. Despite making a meal of the Kenyan attack, Sourav was famished. He was also relieved. At 24 for three, after all, anything could have happened. Thanks to a captain’s knock, an unbeaten 107, India pocketed the four points.
The six-wicket win, of course, took India that much closer to a World Cup semi-finals berth.
All is well that ends well, but India’s Super Six campaign did get off with a Super Scare. “We were lucky to pull it off,” Sourav conceded, before lavishing praise on young Yuvraj Singh, who again produced a brilliant innings at a difficult time.
“Yuvraj is turning into a champion cricketer.... To score at almost a run a ball, that too from the 30th over, is never easy.... The guy is just tremendous,” Sourav insisted. It’s not insignificant, perhaps, that he has been Yuvraj’s backer No. 1.
The ask (226) would have been much simpler had catches been held and the ground fielding was professional. “It’s difficult explaining why even solid fielders dropped catches.... Probably, it had something to do with the peculiar tension which surfaces each time we play a less established team,” Sourav remarked, alluding to the proverbial fear of the unknown.
Not that the Kenyans fell from Mars but, then, we rarely play the Steve Tikolos and the Maurice Odumbes.
Sourav didn’t dwell much on his innings, but did say that his 21st ODI hundred would rank among the better ones. “The runs came under pressure and will always count for much.” Incidentally, Sourav intends gifting the all-gold Pamp watch, which he received as the Man of the Match, to father Chandi.
Was he himself under much pressure'
“I was worried, especially when Rahul Dravid got out (108 for four).... However, I kept reminding myself that I could only do the best I could.... That I should play my normal game .... I think we gained when the ball was changed in the 32nd over or so.... The replacement was hard and worked in our favour,” Sourav replied, adding that “nothing special” came to mind when he got his second hundred of World Cup 2003.
Understandably, the focus is on Monday’s shootout with Sri Lanka, at the Wanderers.
Full points and India will seal a last-four berth which, after 1983, has only been achieved on the two occasions (1987 and 1996) that the World Cup has staged in the sub-continent.
“The equation is quite simple: Remembering the basics, coupled with good cricket, will see us through,” Sourav signed off. Perhaps, we can raise a toast to that.