Calcutta: Sourav Ganguly probably never went on record but, privately, he was bitterly disappointed at contributing a meagre 106 in that classic 2000-2001 Test series against Australia. Of course, he was applauded for leadership, yet the heroes were the V.V.S. Laxmans. Sourav could do little but wait for the next opportunity.
That surfaced at the Gabba, on Sunday, and the Team India captain couldn’t have done much better. Whether the Glenn McGraths and Brett Lees are there or not, taking guard at 62 for three is never comfortable. Only, instead of being overwhelmed — by the situation or bounce or the chin music nonsense — Sourav produced a general’s innings.
By the time he departed (329 for six), Australia’s first innings total had been bettered and a challenge-throwing statement made. Rarely, in recent years, has Steve Waugh’s team fallen behind. Equally, conceding over 350 in a day isn’t a regular occurrence. All the more credit, then, to Sourav and his majestic 144.
“It’s the realisation of a dream... No matter how many Test hundreds you have, people still look for the ones versus Australia... Today, I’m thrilled I got my first — that too in trying conditions,” an elated Sourav told The Telegraph, minutes after returning to the team hotel (Brisbane Sheraton).
In seven Tests prior to this, Sourav’s best was 66 at the Kotla in 1996-97. And, in the last series, his highest was 48 (at the Eden). Understandably, there was much emotion on getting to 100 with a swept couple off Stuart MacGill. In any case, the captain isn’t known to bottle feelings.
“I did get very emotional... I didn’t think of anybody in particular, just tried to take in the moment and the applause... It’s not that I ever doubted my own ability, yet knew I had to get big scores against Australia on Australian soil to raise the level of not only my play but that of the team,” Sourav pointed out.
He continued: “Actually, at this level, the difference is more in the mind... It’s such a mental thing and, so, I was positive from the first delivery... I’m grateful to Greg (Chappell) for his tips as also Sandy Gordon... Interacting with both, at different times, helped...”
Incidentally, Sourav was to spend the evening with the former Australian captain. “It has nothing to do with the hundred... It’s just a coincidence for, the eve of the Test itself, we’d arranged to have dinner together,” he explained, adding Dona and Sana will be around as well.
Fair enough, but it will have that celebration flavour.
According to Sourav, the latest hundred (No. 11) ranks third in his favourites’ list: “For obvious reasons, I’ll place the 131 on debut at Lord’s (1996) right at the top... Next will definitely be the 128 at Headingley (2002)... The Gabba knock comes after that...”
Despite some truly beautiful drives on the off, a region where he is king, Sourav felt a couple of his pulls and on-drives were “most satisfying.” In fact, when he touched three figures, almost 40 per cent of his runs had come on the on — quite a change from the Sourav of old.
“Well, I don’t think I was drastically different in any way... But, yes, one does make small adjustments here and there... Laxman’s support was terrific and our (146-run) partnership made the Australians think right through the afternoon,” Sourav remarked, his tone conveying the upbeat mood.
That Sourav got 144 of the 267 runs during his stay is surely indicative of his authority. However, the effort wasn’t power-driven. Playing each ball on merit was a handsome feature and the only blemish was the return-catch offered to MacGill. That, by the way, was after getting past 100.
The captain, though, isn’t getting carried away. As he put it: “A hundred in the first innings of the series isn’t the end of what has to be done... Collectively, we’ve made a point, but must look to being consistent throughout the four Tests...”
Sourav is clear about his agenda. Now, perhaps, the Australians need to quickly have a theme for the series.