On Thursday, Sourav Ganguly did something he hasn’t in a long time: score valuable, gutsy runs as the rest of India’s batting crumbled around him. On Friday too, he did something he hasn’t in a long time: address Team India.
He told them about how he had adjusted his game to suit the conditions; how he takes a middle-stump guard in South Africa because it allows him to get behind the line better; about what he felt could make a difference to the side.
It seems he has already made a difference. Coach Greg Chappell, having seen that Ganguly had not opened his mouth before his bat had talked, said: “Ganguly was doing the right thing. In Australia and South Africa, you need to get in line, get behind the ball and play from over it.”
That was not all. Chappell said Ganguly and he were getting on well; it had to be understood that their problems had nothing to do with clashes of ego. And given the way Ganguly played on Thursday, he was very happy to have him in the side.
“Ganguly was a very positive influence...,” Chappell said. “He looks calm, relaxed, very fit. He looks like he’s worked hard on aspects of his game. He’s applying both mind and method and that’s showing.”
Ganguly seemed somewhat surprised both by the grand welcome-back to the side, and the softer Chappell he has seen so far in South Africa. On Thursday evening, back at the hotel with 316 on the board in the first innings, Chappell bought the boys a round of beer. The noisy, cheerful group made for a sight not yet seen on this tour.
On Friday morning, before the game started, Chappell worked hard with Ganguly in a more or less exclusive net session. Dada did not quite carry his form into the second innings, as the Indian top order collapsed again. But he had at least had a start in the first innings.
Chappell said it was the best he had seen him bat since that Brisbane hundred of December 2003. That, by the way, was the series before which Chappell — then not India’s coach — had given batting tips to Ganguly.