The man still hasn’t lost the ability to elicit extreme reactions from the fans. Sourav Ganguly's name in the starting XI was greeted with the loudest cheers in the Rajiv Gandhi stadium and the crowd booed Jesse Ryder on the boundary line after he replaced the former India skipper, who was shifted to a safer fielding spot after just one ball had been bowled.
One of his ardent fans broke the security cordon to fall at his feet, seeking the blessings of the god of off-side, just when he was just looking to get into some kind of batting rhythm. The unnamed intruder was whisked away immediately.
But Ganguly hung on doggedly till his feet began to move and his timing improved. He then saw his team home with a 32-ball 32 not out that included three boundaries and a six over midwicket off Amit Mishra.
The 38-year-old was expectedly rusty in his first competitive game for over five months and was virtually invisible in the field till a misfield at covers turned the attention back on him.
Pune Warriors India skipper Yuvraj Singh had till then done his best to shield his first international captain by making him field at short fine leg or at covers. Ganguly, on his part, kept to himself and only once during Wayne Parnell's over did he walk up to Yuvraj to give a tip or two.
The south paw, who averaged just 28 in 40 IPL games in the last three seasons, prodded at the first few deliveries before slapping a short one from Ishant Sharma over the extra cover fielder for his first boundary to find confidence.
“It was probably the toughest day of my career,” admitted Ganguly, who went unsold in the pre-season auction and was picked by Warriors only as a late injury replacement for Ashish Nehra.
“I had not picked a cricket bat for five months. I missed the game against Kings XI Punjab and I came here with zero confidence.” However, with the team off to a good start chasing just 137 runs to win, Ganguly had the luxury of time to settle down and the experienced campaigner was not willing to fritter away a lifeline handed to him. The only worry for the team management would be to find ways and means to shield him during fielding. But Ganguly had a ready answer.
“Fielding will also get better. It's about anticipating, which I haven't done for a while.”