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Ganguly, the king of Dhaka hearts

It is not difficult to guess who Bangladesh's favourite cricketer is. Ask anyone and he would tell you it is Sourav Ganguly.

india Updated: Apr 21, 2003 01:31 IST

It is not difficult to guess who Bangladesh's favourite cricketer is. Ask anyone and he would tell you it is India captain Sourav Ganguly.

The 'Prince of Kolkata' has a special place in the hearts of the Dhaka fans and even Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga's visit here has lost its sheen due to the Maharaj’s presence.

In fact, when Indian stars like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid pulled out of the ongoing tri-series, an extra effort was made by the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) to ensure that Ganguly did not pull out. And, despite the back pain, for which he was undergoing treatment, the skipper made himself available for the tournament.

On Saturday, he revealed the reason for his decision. "I have more friends here than in Kolkata."

That might have been to please his hosts, but Ganguly is definitely Dhaka's favourite Indian. "Ganguly has been good for this tournament," a BCB official said.

In fact, with the fans shunning cricket after Bangladesh's dismal performance in the World Cup, the BCB hoped to cash in on Ganguly's presence to draw the crowd. "We knew that people would come to the ground to watch Ganguly, even if not for any other reason."

The hosts are still waiting for a full-house, but the BCB feels that Ganguly's presence swelled the gate earnings. Even the man on the street will tell you that Ganguly is the person he is keen to watch.

"I was here in the stands to watch Ganguly when he led the Indian Test team three years ago," Mohammad Mashud, a small-time business man said. "This time too, I have come to watch him play." He has been trying to get an autograph, but has not been successful till now. "I hope to get one before he leaves this country."

At the official dinner hosted by the BCB on Saturday, Ganguly was once again the centre of attraction. He walked in after the rest of his teammates and was immediately surrounded by autograph-hunters.

Even as Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag and Mohammad Kaif obliged the odd fan, Ganguly - at the head of table with South African captain Graeme Smith and his Bangladesh counterpart Khaled Mahmud - was constantly surrounded by young, wide-eyed followers. He smiled, spoke in Bengali and declared he was enjoying his stay immensely.

"It is nice to be here," he said. "It has been a great tournament for our youngsters. It is always a challenge to lead a young and inexperienced side and I have enjoyed this trip."

First Published: Apr 21, 2003 01:31 IST