Sourav Ganguly beat some of the biggest names in Indian cricket when he was named 'Best Captain' in 75 years of Test cricket at the 10th Castrol Awards for Cricketing Excellence in Kochi.
A wonderful evening in the backwaters of 'God's Own Country' on Tuesday honoured eleven former captains for their service to the game.
Besides Ganguly, late CK Nayudu, late Vinoo Mankad, Nari Contractor, Chandu Borde, Ajit Wadekar, Bishan Singh Bedi, Sunil Gavaskar, Gundappa Viswanath, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid were the skippers especially chosen for the recognition.
Nayudu's daughter Chandra and Mankad's son Atul received the awards on behalf of their illustrious fathers.
The gala night had anecdotes flowing like champagne from the former stars.
Recalled Contractor: "I became an opening batsman only because of Vinoo. I had never opened in my life and for some reason Vinoo was not available for a Test against New Zealand.
"Polly Umrigar was the captain and he asked me to open. And in the next Test, me and Vinoo opened the innings and that is how I became an opener."
When asked how many bats he carried in his kit bag during his playing days, Contractor said one.
Much to the amusement of those in attendance, Ganguly, known for carrying plenty of bats on tour, quipped: "If you carry one bat now, then you might be dropped from the side for the next match due to lack of commitment."
Bedi revealed that he was a big fan of legendary West Indies captain Sir Gary Sobers. "The greatest batsman I ever bowled to was Sobers. I never felt bad when he hit me for boundaries. It was a treat to watch him play," Bedi fondly remembers.
Nayudu's daughter Chandra too became nostalgic, saying, "My father used to say cricket
khelne ke liye dimag ki zaroorat hoti hain
(You need brains to play cricket).
"I think the boys are quite intelligent now and the Twenty20 win by Dhoni and his brigade is the best gift my father could have wanted while celebrating 75 years of Test cricket."
Chandra drew parallels between her father and new Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, both known for their big hitting.
"I think Dhoni plays the way my father used to play. Both want to hit big sixes. But there is one difference between my father and Dhoni. As a captain, my father was more of a commander while Dhoni seems like a companion," said Chandra.
Besides honouring the former Test captains, awards were also given to players of six different eras.
Nayudu was honoured as the 'Best Indian Cricketer' of the first era 1932-47 while Mankad received the honour for 1947-61.
Former captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, who revolutionised Indian cricket and instilled a winning habit, received the award for the 1961-71 era. 'Tiger', as Pataudi is commonly known, couldn't make it to the awards gala, but in a recorded message congratulated the Twenty20 world champions.
Gavaskar, the first batsman to score 10,000 Test runs, and Kapil Dev, the first Indian bowler to take 400 Test wickets, won the award for the 1971-81 and 1981-1997 eras respectively.
Dravid and Tendulkar shared the award for the sixth era -- 1997-2007.
Members of the triumphant Twenty20 squad were also felicitated.
Amid all the celebration, there was no mention of Mohammed Azharuddin, under whose leadership India enjoyed a fair degree of success.