This is turning out to be more than a fairytale. Banished from the Indian team for what seemed like an eternity, Sourav Ganguly is back. He is keeping quiet these days, just as he did in the days when he was out, but his performance is roaring, maybe louder than the Royal Bengal Tiger.
The calm and assured manner in which he did his job in Saturday's ODI series-decider against Sri Lanka probably got overpowered by Yuvraj Singh's majestic comeback show (95 not out off 83 balls). Yet, the authority Ganguly displayed in first taming and then decimating an average attack on a batting beauty was unmistakable.
As if he too was enjoying the Yuvraj fireworks, Ganguly distanced himself from the butchering in the closing stages. He had actually started proceedings in that 145-run partnership that ensured that there would be no nightmares on the long flights to the Caribbean for the World Cup.
There was no sign of dizziness or thigh cramps when he came back after walking off in the first over of the innings. “I didn't sleep last night and bowled six overs, which I hadn't done in a while,” he said later. Soon after taking fresh guard, he pulled Dilhara Fernando out of the smallish ground.
The trademark heaves against the spinners were back, after some time. There was one over long-off and another well wide of long-on. “I have been playing well consistently and scoring runs when required. Since the South Africa series I have been getting runs. It's going well,” Ganguly said after receiving the Man of the Series award.
This was his fourth half-century in six ODIs after coming back to the version of the game he once ruled, and a stunning 63rd of his career. But those are mere statistics towering above which was his presence in the middle in a memorable two-man finishing job with the batsman he had spotted with the eye of an eagle when he was young and raw.
After losing everything until the series against the West Indies, India's World Cup campaign could not have started in a better frame of mind, the quality of opposition and familiarity with conditions notwithstanding. And Ganguly has played the role of the catalyst in a comeback story of his own and his team.
“We are going to the World Cup in the right frame of mind. We will get similar wickets in the West Indies and it's good that the players are in good form. This is a good outfit,” said the man whose cricketing obituaries had been written and sent to print. Those who wrote them would be rather pleasantly surprised with what they are seeing.
Email Atreyo Mukhopadhyay: firstname.lastname@example.org