Sourav Ganguly was once an angry young man. In the last stretch of his career, that anger still simmers.
It was in evidence on Saturday when, after reaching a vital, quietly accumulated century, he punched his bat into the air. The gesture was part-vindication, part-glorious rage.
It was in evidence again when he said that his century showed that he was “not dependent on anyone for selection”. Ganguly, for all his theatrics, is not an off-the-cuff man. He was responding to those who said he would be picked for the next two Tests only out of ‘sympathy’.
The anger was in evidence before this series against Australia began when the only question being asked was, ‘Will Sourav be there?’
In private, Ganguly was upset. Since rising from the ashes in that stunning return in Johannesburg two years ago, he struck best form in a Test career that never dropped below an average of 40.
In public, he appeared to move from being truculent to uncharacteristically despondent. But he told a few he trusted that he felt betrayed by this constant sword over his head, no matter how he fared on the pitch. “Why is it always me?” he asked. It was a question he had often asked before. It is ironic that some of what he said in private was made public by a Bengali newspaper earlier this month, again, breaking trust.
Over Friday and Saturday, first with Sachin Tendulkar, and then with the man he once hand-picked as a “future star”, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ganguly stood between Australia and an Indian collapse. The anger was banked and channelled into concentrated play, runs coming more by singles than by trademark boundaries.
By the time he left the pitch, perishing while trying to loft Cameron White over long-off soon after reaching his 16th century, Ganguly had helped India to a total that left the Australians on the defensive. It was typical Ganguly in atypical fashion.
But that's the way he’s been - unexpected — right from the time he was thrown in at No. 3 in testing conditions in England in 1996, becoming only the third person in history to score a century on debut at Lord's. It had been a baptism by fire. Playing his last series against the best team in the world, it's been another trial by fire.