| Sourav in South Africa. (AP)
Dec. 5: There were no garlands, but Test-specialist Sourav Ganguly still received a welcome which moved him to tell The Telegraph that “everything is good”.
Speaking (briefly, as a Code of Conduct is in place) from the Willows Garden Hotel in Potchefstroom this evening, Sourav said: “I’m happy to be back with the team… Everything is good… The next four weeks will be challenging and I’m ready…”
The former captain, recalled to Team India after all of nine months, drove straight to Potchefstroom after landing in Johannesburg around 8 am.
Sourav was received by the Cricket South Africa-appointed “local manager.”
The drive took less than two hours and, after checking in, he headed for Sedgars Park where the team was practising.
Coach Greg Chappell’s confidant, biomechanist Ian Frazer (who effectively doubles as assistant coach), was the first to greet Sourav.
Chappell and captain Rahul Dravid were in the midst of an “intense” nets session, doing different things, but Sourav followed protocol and moved towards the coach.
According to somebody who was around, they met “with a degree of warmth”.
Sourav and Chappell shook hands, exchanging pleasantries. By the time this season’s most awaited one-on-one got over, very publicly at that, Dravid had finished with knock-downs.
“Hi Dadi (the team’s variation of Dada)… How are you'” was how he welcomed his predecessor whom he hadn’t thought of after the Karachi Test.
The oldtimers, by the way, address Dravid as “Jam” or “Jammie.”
Sourav, apparently, enquired about his successor’s right middle finger which got fractured in Cape Town.
Dravid’s injury put him out of the last two ODIs and India’s maiden Twenty20 International.
The greetings over, Sourav went to the bowling machine and batted for at least 10 minutes.
Later, Chappell asked four quicks — Sreesanth, Vikram Rajvir Singh and two locals — to go full tilt once Sourav had “warmed up” for nets proper.
Sourav, one learns, wasn’t in any discomfort during the 10-plus minutes he faced the quartet.
As somebody present at Sedgars Park put it: “Given that he’d been travelling since last evening, he looked good.”
Not that jet lag has a place in today’s cricket.
Facing the Makhaya Ntinis is going to be very different, but Sourav has (at least) started on a positive note.
As important, Chappell and Dravid have made him feel wanted. They certainly did this afternoon.
It’s not clear whether chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar — who interacted with them before last Thursday’s selection meeting — actually conveyed a ‘message’ from the Board of Control for Cricket in India, but the coach and captain have acted as pros ought to.
Any comeback, clearly, is difficult. It can get so much more tougher when there are doubts over just how friendly the environment will be.
Chappell set the comfort ball rolling the other day itself when, at the end of the traumatic ODIs, he expressed the hope that Sourav (and V.V.S. Laxman) would make a difference in the three-Test series.
Sourav’s first match is going to be the four-dayer against Rest of South Africa.
That’s the build-up to the real action, which begins with Test No.1, at the Wanderers, from December 15.