Sourav Ganguly - The Captain, Leader and Legend India got During Darkest Hours
Ganguly is one of the most successful captains of India [Twitter]
How do you judge someone's captaincy skills? Is statistical data a benchmark to judge a good captain or is there any other process?. Indian cricket witnessed its darkest time during the infamous fixing scandal in the year 2000, and cricketers were almost comparable to devils.
Once seen as a religion in India, cricket became the most hated sport and rightly so.
But even in the darkest hour, there was a ray of hope for Indian cricket. After the match fixing scandal by some of the Indian players, nobody wanted to touch the captaincy throne. Sachin Tendulkar, who had already captained India previously decided not to take up the role, and Ganguly being the vice-captain was trusted with the duty to steer Indian cricket out of this precarious and delicate situation.
Dada brought in his own army
The first thing Sourav Chandidas Ganguly did was to instil a winning belief in the Indian side. The God of off side had a vision for the team and for that, he brought in youngsters, who had the passion to prove their worth at the international stage.
Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh, just to name a few cricketers who were brought into the Indian team by Ganguly, and each of them repaid the faith sooner rather than later.
Ahead of the much talked about Border-Gavaskar series in 2001, the Indian selectors were against the selection of Harbhajan Singh. However, Dada being Dada, fought for his own player and made sure that he had the Turbanator in the squad against the Aussies.
Harbhajan made sure Ganguly didn't regret the decision, as the wily off-spinner racked up 32 wickets in just 3 matches, and broke the backbone of the Australian batting lineup.
Ganguly planted the seeds for India's success in the 2011 World Cup. Yes, MS Dhoni was the winning captain, and he led from the front, but it was the same crop of players, brought by Ganguly who performed at the highest level to clinch the World Cup in 2011.
Yuvraj Singh, gave an all-round efforts and was the Player of the Tournament in 2011. Zaheer Khan, always chipped in wickets and was the leader of India's bowling attack in the World Cup.
A winning mentality installed
Pre-Ganguly captaincy era was something which the Indian fans don't cherish too much. Yes, we used to win in India, but there was no winning mentality when toured abroad.
It all started with the NatWest series win in 2002, and the momentum continued all the way to the 2003 World Cup. Yes, India lost the final against the Aussies, but they won the hearts with the charismatic display of cricket shown by Dada's army.
The biggest example of India's changed mentality took place in the 2003-04 Border-Gavaskar series Down Under. India went toe-to-toe against an invincible Australian team and gave them a run for their own money. The series ended 1-1, and this marked the beginning of a special Indian team, who weren't afraid to take bold decisions in alien conditions.
Sacrificing his own spot
Ganguly formed a potent opening partnership alongside Sachin Tendulkar towards the late 90s and early 2000. However, the arrival of Virender Sehwag changed the dynamics. Despite a successful stint alongside Tendulkar, Ganguly sacrificed his slot for Sehwag, predominantly because he wanted the youngster to flourish in the Indian setup.
When Sehwag bursted onto the scene, he was batting at number 6 & 7 in the Tests. Ganguly saw something special in him and wanted to make a champion player out of him. The result - Sehwag became one of the most successful openers for India in Tests.
Similarly, in the middle of the 2003 World Cup, the Prince of Indian cricket, decided to promote Sehwag at the top, and that once again was a game-changer, not only for Sehwag, but for India as well.
Numbers may show MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli as the most successful skippers in Indian cricket, but the impact and legacy that Ganguly created as a leader, will never be replicated.