October 08, 2008

Bengal’s Last Hero

Today as I was waiting for the clock to strike six so that I could make my getaway, a fellow bong and school mate from Germany pinged me knowing fully well what news could distress me to no end. (Lately people have been developing the habit of giving me distressing news during the course of work. For example, someone pings and says E-Ka is marrying K-Jo.) But then this news was more distressing than any other. Ganguly had finally announced his retirement.

A lot of events flashed in front of my eyes. I remembered how four or five of us had defended Ganguly all through our 2 years at IIMB when everyone worth a penny of salt was fighting against Dada and us. Dada came back again and again, like a phoenix defying every doomsday prediction and getting deified in the eyes of his ardent fans. Lots will be written about him, many better writers will write eulogies for the Prince of Calcutta but here let me just try to say what endeared him to me.

To say I admire Ganguly because he’s a Bong will be akin to questioning my basic levels of intelligence. I have never been regional and I hope I never will be accused of being one. Yet I can sense some logic in Bengalis being blind to any fault of their beloved Dada. The Tamilians had their MGR, the Telugus their NTRs. For a communist and hero starved state, Ganguly came like a ray of hope. From the days when Bengal defined the directions of the Freedom Struggle, to the failed Naxalite Movement that claimed the lives of the best and brightest of Bengal, till the communist reign in a state where hero worship had been replaced by ‘party worship’ Bengalis starved for a hero. The nation was growing tired of flaunting its Tagore, Teresa and Bose. At that moment came a century at Lords. And Ganguly became the symbol of Bengal’s hurt pride slowly raising its head again. They had been told by their leadership that Bengal was lagging behind because the ‘Centre’ i.e. Delhi hated this communist state. The students were leaving the state in droves as the Engineering and Medical Colleges had not grown in number since their Parent’s times. And then came Toronto. Newspapers feasted on the new Hero. Bengal realized that it could still perform on a bigger platform. His Love marriage with his childhood sweetheart made every Bengali mother feel protective about their son. Every detail of his life was gobbled up by The Bengali Bhadrolok with his morning cup of tea and as he went to office in Metro. Finally, Jyoti Basu refused to become the Prime Minister but Dada became the India’s Cricket Captain, a position more important than that of the PM for this cricket crazy nation. And since then Bengal has been there for Ganguly.

I admire Ganguly for quite a few reasons. He made us realize that we could look at the best in the eye and never blink. He made us realize that it’s not wrong to break traditions if your ultimate objective is to be the best. He told us that we a billion strong nation can win the World Cup once again, even if it’s a World of 9 nations. He showed us that brilliance can’t be stopped. Even with 9 fielders guarding the off side, his bat would show the ball the direction to the boundary.

But the only reason why India should remember Dada is because he is the one who destroyed the age old system of selection processes in Indian Cricket. He nurtured talent whenever he found one and backed him to the hilt. He was our first players’ captain. He was Dada - both the Don and the loving Elder Brother. What Team India today is actually a dream that Dada had planted.

He perhaps could have retired with more dignity. There was perhaps truth in the accusations against him. But then he’s not a God. We have a Tendulkar for that slot. And that’s why Ganguly will be remembered - as the human who dared to defy conventions.


V said...

What Team India today is actually a dream that Dada had planted

Agreed. And the powers that are do not deserve a dignified Dada exit.

PS: I don't believe that he is a bong ;)

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

I somehow agree to your last statement. He was different than the stereotypes

CJ said...

very passionate post man - loved it. i've always backed ganguly though... indian cricket's really been unfair to him. n even now people question his retirement as a chance given by the BCCI to make a "dignified exit" - horrible. doesnt he deserve that, in any case?

sayrem said...

and HOW cud u hav missed out?
dada gave us SOURAVS......

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

@Sayrem - Haven't eaten there yet :D

Anand Kashyap said...

You forget the Lord's balcony jersey waving antic! Gesture asking Flintoff to F*** off.
We'll always be proud of Dada for that moment if not for anything else...

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

@Anand - Somehow somewhere the purist in me can't share the sentiments on that one to the fullest extent. Imagine your best footage is not your six over long on, but your bare chest without six pack abs.

Joy said...

Sourav's memories -
1/ Century at lord's debut
2/ Toronto Heroics
3/ Captaincy post "Kronje Gate"
4/ First series win and many to follow later...
5/ Makin steve waugh wait for the toss..
6/ Eden Garden victory
7/ so many 100+ opening parterships with Sachin
8/ World Cup 2003
9/ Natwest a year earlier (The only good thing to happen in PS-1)
10/ Chappel Gate (the only bad memory)
11/ Comeback to India Squad
12/ Double against Pakistan
13/ Tour to South Africa (the only guy with balls there)
14/ 100 against Australia and a head held high