When I first heard the news, of Sourav retiring, I wasn't shocked, not surprised, nor sad. From what I had learned of Sourav, I just had a very strong intuition, that it would be coming soon. This man was proud, liked to do things on his own terms, wasn't bound by anything, but for the desire to serve his country. Then how could he have endured when after one, just one bad series, the media wrote him off like junk, the selectors refused to select him for a first class match, and the country voiced their opinion aloud, Sourav should retire.
But I, who has worshipped this man ever since my father told me how to hold the bat, felt only one emotion, emptiness. I knew this emotion only too well. It didn't dawn on me till today, when I realised that this will probably be the last time my HERO will be batting for his country, that all those emotions which I deliberately pushed back somewhere into the vacuum of my heart, came rushing back overwhelmingly and I succumbed to them.
Rewinding back to the old days, I started watching cricket when I was 5, and one of my earliest memories of cricket are that of Sourav making a century on debut. Yes that was the time as a kid that I started getting inspired by someone who wasn't anything to me. As I grew up, I saw Ganguly develop into a potent middle order batsman in tests, and the other half of the greatest ODI opening pair the game has seen. In 2000, after Sachin failed and gave up on his captancy stint, and Indian cricket was being pulled into a hole, BCCI was looking for someone who could pull it back and re-instate the order after the disgraceful match fixing fiasco.
Ganguly and Dravid were the top contenders, but BCCI chose Ganguly, and they got more than they had hoped for. Ganguly far from re-instated the old order, he did better, he did something that no captain of India before him had been able to accomplish, he gave them a gift of aggression. Yes Indian cricket started rising back from the ashes, under the surveillance and guidance of this great leader. He looked for young talent, developed them to his liking, supported them beyond reasonable against the board and made great cricketers out of them. The likes include Virender sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan singh and many more. But unfortunately, when his own form slumped, there was nothing but sympathy for Sourav, and that couldn't do anything for him. It seemed as if all hope was lost for Sourav, critics not giving him a even a second glance, even his fans gave up wishing his comeback, but it is not for nothing that this guy was crowned comeback prince.
After a draught of 8 months, the selectors called upon him, while looking for a saviour who could save the Indian team from deep dark clutches of humiliation at the hands of South Africa. He played that role perfectly. For the next two years, Ganguly almost became a dream batsman for Indian cricket, with contributions in almost every match, be it an ODI or a test. He won the test series for us against england, helped us save face by drawing the series against South Africa. Then came the Sri Lanka series. It spelled disaster for Indian cricket. Sourav failed to perform in a single match. The echoes of the critics, the media, the fans came alive again, Should sourav retire? The selectors, for reasons unknown, dropped Ganguly from the Irani trophy squad whil retaining Dravid and Tendulkar, whose performances were as abysmal as of Ganguly. This was the final blow the BCCI could give to Ganguly's pride. Then, a new selection committee was appointed which brought back Ganguly into the team. But alas, it was too late. The free bird couln't bound itsef to someone's petty discretion and go on playing with leased time. He decided it was time to go. And for one last time, he was determined to win a series for his country; for his fans. He played a very decisive hand in the match in Mohali and scored a century, and the match was won by India. It seems as if Sourav is waving a final goodbye to the world of cricket, and wants to give it a last gift. Even as he goes, he supports another youngster, Vijay, who was reccomended by Sourav first when BCCI had to appoint an opener for one match. So much for thinking for the bettermeant of Indian cricket, always.
By all the cricket lovers, players, commentators, critics Sourav will be portrayed as someone who changed Indian cricket for the better, as the best and most passionate leader in Indian cricket, as some1 who gave the most historic moment to Indian fans including the Natwest Series win in England in 2003 and as DADA, Prince of Kolkata, Comeback Prince and what not. But for me, I will remember him as someone, who unknowingly changed me into a person with better grit, more determination, better self control and played a huge hand in making me the individual I am today.
I want to say, Thank You DADA, for making my life better.
Dada serving his country for a final time:-