Ahmedabad: Seven months ago, Sourav Ganguly arrived to a very different welcome. Team India had lost the previous match, the third ODI against Pakistan in Jamshedpur, but that didnít upset fans and the red carpet was still laid out.
He was then the captain.
On Friday morning, the TV crews were missing and no photographer was visible when Sourav checked into the now swanky Sports Club of Gujarat. But word did get around and when he came down to join teammates for the half-hour bus ride to Motera (for practice ahead of the Duleep final versus West), some well-wishers had gathered.
The bus, of course, wasnít airconditioned and there was no police escort either.
However, while the spring in Souravís step isnít quite the same, his shoulders arenít drooping. Heís not talking, though, and not allowing anybody a Ďpeepí into his mind during the most challenging period of his career.
ďIím happy weíve made the Duleep final... Iím looking forward to everybody doing well... We havenít ever won this tournament and it will be great for cricket in East Zone if history is created,Ē Sourav told The Telegraph.
Asked just how much had he been missing international cricket, Indiaís most successful Test captain responded with: ďIím only thinking about the final... As captain, Iíve got a job to do ' help East Zone win...Ē
That wife Dona and daughter Sana were to land late in the evening should help him unwind after each dayís play.
Owing to tennis elbow symptoms, Sourav wasnít available for the first two matches of the current series against Sri Lanka and, despite proving fitness and form (in a Duleep face-off in Rajkot), got ignored thereafter.
Even if Sourav isnít saying anything, itís pretty evident that heís backing himself to make a comeback. But, when' During the five-ODI series versus South Africa, beginning next week, or in the three Tests against Lanka next month'
The fourth match versus South Africa, incidentally, is at the Eden on November 25.
The senior national selectors meet in Vadodara on Saturday, after the seventh and final ODI against Lanka, to pick the squad for the first two matches (Hyderabad and Bangalore). The dates being such, the Hyderabad ODI clashes with the scheduled last day of the Duleep final ' November 16.
Surely, the selectors (and coach Greg Chappell) wonít turn so enthusiastic and pluck Sourav out of a major domestic final. At best, he has to be patient till Bangalore when the squad for the last three matches is going to be picked.
Realistically, Sourav may have to wait for the Tests. However, questions about 31-year-old Jai Prakash Yadavís selection will continue to be asked. Some see a motive on the part of those who matter.