Call it one of life’s ironies or what you will but Sourav Ganguly’s last tango with Tests is happening in a city centrestage to one of the several controversies that dotted his illustrious career. It was Nagpur, circa 2004, when his withdrawal from a crucial Test against Australia on a greenish wicket with good bounce puckered eyebrows.
Officially, the world was told that the captain and masthead of that Indian team was not fit for a Test which Australia won to conquer the ‘Final Frontier’. It was their first triumph in India after over 30 years and helped them complete the record of winning against every country, home and away.
Coincidentally again, Ganguly’s last Test may turn out to be the one where Ricky Ponting’s team loses that record. In that case, the first Test at the new VCA Jamtha Stadium will see the end of two eras — one of invincibility and another of something that is hard to capture in a word. From Thursday, India's geographical centre will see the last five days of international cricket of a man who was at the centre of a lot of extraordinary things.
It is impossible and imprudent to ignore everything else because there is a lot more to this match than Ganguly's retirement. Thursday starts an era in Indian cricket because a new Test captain will take charge and the team will have to look at life after Anil Kumble. V.V.S. Laxman's 100th Test may also turn out to be significant if India don't lose it, for that would mean questioning Australia's supremacy.
Pregnant with possibilities, known and unknown, the last Test of this series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy is still in a lot of ways is about Ganguly, at least until the umpires call play. Being dropped for the Test against England in 2006 means he hasn't played here since missing that Test against Australia. But Ganguly did trumpet his return to the ODI here, smashing 98 against the West Indies one year later.
Coincidentally, and we are getting a fair dose of them this time, his goodbye to cricket is happening at a place which saw his comeback to a version of the game he dominated at the peak of his prowess.
Ganguly has a decent first-class record here including two tons but before walking back to the pavilion one last time, he will do everything he can to better his best international score here — 99 against Sri Lanka in 1997. That will be some deed because very few players have distinguished their Test debut and departure with three-figure knocks.