| Sourav Ganguly after his half-century at Sedgars Park on Thursday. (AP)
Dec. 7: Before setting out for South Africa as a Test specialist, Sourav Ganguly had acknowledged he was about to start his career all over again. That the past, even the 15,000-plus runs in ODIs and Tests, wouldn’t mean too much when he took guard on wickets which wouldn’t be batsman-friendly.
Today, the former captain made a headline-grabbing beginning: an excellent 83 against Rest of South Africa in Potchefstroom. As important, the runs came when the team was in tatters — 37 for three.
“I’m happy with this innings, but the real test begins after this match. What’s important is the Test series…. I’m more confident, though,” Sourav told The Telegraph.
Thanks to his partnership with Irfan Pathan, who struck the first century on tour, India finished the opening day on 316 for seven.
Not that a berth for the first Test (Johannesburg, from December 15) was really in doubt, but Sourav needed a handsome start to remind the world — particularly captain Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell — that he deserved to be in South Africa.
Also, that he had it in him to anchor instead of sliding with the rest.
Unlike the last comeback (January-February tour of Pakistan), this one was without any ‘message’ to the selectors from the board’s brass. Still, it had to begin with a knock to minimise the pressures associated with a return to big-time cricket.
Sourav’s innings has brought joy to well-wishers, including selection committee chairman Dilip Vengsarkar. Talking exclusively, the one-time captain said: “I’m very, very happy... Sourav, however, must continue with this form in the three-Test series.”
Vengsarkar, it may be recalled, more than just supported Sourav during last Thursday’s selection meeting. He’s reaching South Africa on Monday morning.
While Sourav and Pathan have provided cheer, the thinktank has to sweat over the opening combination.
Virender Sehwag, who flopped in the ODIs, failed again. Then, Wasim Jaffer (a duck in the first ODI) couldn’t open his account at Sedgars Park either.
The vice-captaincy has been taken away from Sehwag, but successor V.V.S. Laxman hasn’t been doing anything. He didn’t get off the mark in the final ODI and managed 23 today.
Batting, which was Team India’s USP in the Sourav-John Wright era, is now the No. 1 worry. It’s a strange game.