Calcutta: Team India captain Sourav Ganguly was a loser when the Government of India honours list was announced on the eve of the 2001 Republic Day. Three years on, he has finally got the Padma Shri. Vice-captain (and buddy) Rahul Dravid has been similarly honoured.
Sourav, it may be recalled, lost out in 2001 as the match-fixing controversy was then only months old and cricket had fallen from grace. In fact, his name was “discussed at length” in the corridors of power but, eventually, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Union home ministry decided not to recommend either him or any other cricketer to the President.
“Across the board, the concerned officials felt it wouldn’t be appropriate to honour Sourav at a time the public was quite disgusted with cricket in general and cricketers in particular,” is how a well-placed source had summed up the mood in New Delhi.
Since then, there’s been an even bigger change with Sourav being instrumental in recasting Team India’s body-language. More than that, we have tasted much success in the past ten months — from making the 2003 World Cup final to beating Australia in Adelaide and ending the recent Test series 1-1.
Dravid, of course, is in sync with Sourav’s vision and has been contributing significantly to the march towards the top slot both in Tests and ODIs. For example, his effort was invaluable in the World Cup and the Test series in Australia.
Understandably, Sourav is happy with the honour.
“It’s one form of recognition for everything I’ve tried to do... Yes, it’s pleasing,” he told The Telegraph when contacted on his cellphone late on Sunday.
However, Sourav declined to comment on the Padma Shri coming his way after a three-year ‘delay’.
Dravid couldn’t be reached for a reaction.
While Vijay Hazare and Jasu Patel were the first cricketers to receive the Padma Shri, in 1960, Col C. K. Nayudu was No.1 in being honoured with the Padma Bhushan (1956). Quite a few (including Pankaj Roy) have received the Padma Shri, but the list of Padma Bhushan awardees from the cricket fraternity is much smaller.