Sourav Ganguly might have lost his kingdom, he might not be the Captain Fantastic of the Indian team anymore, but his influence and craze is no less persuasive, no less unbelievable.
The Nehru Stadium, that looked so dilapidated and forlorn on Thursday, turned into a Roman coliseum as Sourav trooped in. Spectators thronged the stands and started chanting, 'Dada come on', 'Save India Dada' as soon as he buckled his pads and entered the nets for a hit.
The man himself appeared unperturbed by being the object of such affection and looked indifferent, as if in a trance of acceptance or in a silent prayer of deliverance.
However, what was heartening to see about Ganguly on Friday was that he seemed fitter than ever and worked his socks off in training - he reportedly trained with a parachute on Friday in Kolkata besides his usual dose of kickboxing and only God knows what all.
Virtually devoid of context, the economy of his movement and the sheer absence of fuss as he went about his work were strikingly apparent, rendering the delicacy of his footwork even more moving as he pierced Debashish Mohanty through the covers during the nets.
Later, speaking to Hindustan Times Ganguly confirmed that he was in fine fettle and would bat at No 4.
He also spoke on a lot of issues. He praised the BCCI's initiative to play Duleep Trophy matches with the Kookaburra balls and said that a similar pattern should be followed in the Ranji Trophy.
On the nearly deplorable practice facilities here - the pitch East Zone practiced on was fit for a devil's dance and Ganguly had to cut his session short - Ganguly quipped that he had come to terms with "playing in domestic cricket", and "what else you can expect".
When he finished his session, he was patient enough to oblige innumerable autograph hunters with a beatific smile on his face, those infamous petulance and irritability appearing a distant past. He won the hearts of all and sundry and with such gesture, the crowds will only increase in the next four days