I was born and raised in the football crazy state of West Bengal. Until Dada happened that is. I remember how downcast people looked when Maradona had to pull out of the ’94 World Cup. But then in the summer of ’96 this man exploded on the scene of Indian cricket with two consecutive centuries on debut, and by the time he retired he had changed Indian cricket forever.
Dada has never been the most technically sound batsman or the most exciting to watch. However, he was good enough to walk into the Indian team for most parts of his career. To watch his drives on the off side when he was in full flow was exhilarating. Bengal loved him, without conditions or logic. As Coehlo said in the Alchemist, “One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.”
Me. I love him for he was the first Indian to have guts. He was not afraid to give it back. Be it Steve Waugh or Andrew Flintoff. Too often in the past had I watched Indian cricketers taking all abuse without standing up. It was refreshing to watch him give it back. I think he depended more on his instinct while making decisions, be it backing younger players, or shot selection.
It was difficult for him to stay away from controversies, but then who cares. And anyway, who is Greg “underarm” Chappell to tell people about ethics. And Ganguly was not supposed to be super human anyway, we have Sachin for that. The Dada we love is a genius, and a flawed one at that. I remember the evening when shopkeepers in Siliguri refused to sell me stuff because they were watching Ganguly play against Pakistan in that Dhaka finals.
I still remember how I felt like puking when I first saw the “Apne Dada ko bhule to nahin” ad for Pepsi. But he meant what he said. “But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward” He bounced back as only he could. Fighting till the last test. And going out with a wonderful series. Going out with a victory, knowing that we will never forget him.
Here is my most enduring memory of him.