When he arrived to address the media, two days ahead of the first Test, it was a bit of a surprise, and he saved the best of a 14-minute interaction for the last. “Just one last thing lads, before I leave, I just want to say that this is going to be my last series,” said Sourav Ganguly, and despite all the speculation of the last few days there wasn't one person in the room who could say they knew this was coming.
“I have decided to quit and I've told my teammates before I have come here. These four Test matches are going to be my last. Thanks for all your support, hopefully we'll go on a winning note. Thanks.”
That one statement made the rest of what Ganguly said about the forthcoming series, about the nature of the pitch in Bangalore and about the quality of the Australian team pale into insignificance. But even then, there was enough that the former Indian captain revealed that gave you an insight into the state of his mind.
Ganguly began by saying he was surprised to be picked to play this series. “To be honest I didn't expect to be picked for this series. Once I was I have started preparing,” he said. “Even when I was left out of the Rest of India squad, which was a bit surprising, I was training with the Bengal boys. That's the way it is.”
Ganguly also emphatically dismissed any suggestions that a VRS scheme had been offered to him, when asked about the speculation surrounding his future. "This has been going on for some time really - for the last one-and-a-half years. And it will go on. I don't think it's ever possible that anybody can offer you a VRS scheme, that was the term used," he said. "I don't think that's ever possible in sport. You can't do that to players like Kumble, Dravid, Laxman, Sachin, myself or anyone. We have been performing for years. I understand we all had a poor series in Sri Lanka. But these players have been performing for the last two-three years, for their entire lives. I'm sure when time comes they will go on their own terms.”
Was this endless speculation putting extra pressure on the senior players? "I don't know really. When you play for so long you tend to put speculation behind you because there have been a lot of things written in the past and a lot of things will b e written in the future. It's important what you get to know from the board," said Ganguly. "As far as I am concerned and as far as any of the other seniors are concerned we haven't received any intimation from the board on anything. Obviously some people have been picked and some people have been dropped. That's the way selection goes."
Ganguly also referred to how there was always pressure on those in the team to perform because others were pushing to break into the team. "It is not about seniors or youngsters. When there was a series five years back also there was pressure. You knew that if you didn't perform then there was someone to come in," he said. "When we started there were greats who had played for India for so long, like Azharuddin, Vengsarkar, Manjrekar … We performed and we came in. That process will go on. It's all about performances. Every series, every year you have someone waiting. Five years ago it was probably Dinesh Mongia, Hemang Badani, now it is Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Sharma. Five years down the line it will be someone else. That's the way sport goes, you just have to live with it."
Ganguly also admitted that he did think he had been singled out unfairly, more than once, in the past. "Yeah it has been, unfortunately. I have felt that, but that's the way it is," he said. "I have achieved enough in this sport, hopefully I've lived with it and the day I can't I'll go."
Now that the pressure of the selectoral axe has been lifted, all that remains is for Ganguly to go out on a high, against the best in the world.
If Ganguly manages this - and all India will be right behind him - then it won't be the first time he's gotten under the noses of the Aussies, or for that matter, saved the best for last.