“Dada, Dada, Dada.”
For any cricketing fan who has been to the Eden Gardens in Kolkata and has watched a cricket match in the early 2000s, such cheers should be reminiscent with the game. The atmosphere of Eden Gardens used to be electrifying each time Sourav Chandidas Ganguly walked into the field.
Once, Sourav was asked by Ravi Shastri, former Indian captain, why was there no stand named after him in Eden Gardens. Sourav had quite candidly responded that the entire ground belongs to him. Such a magnanimous statement could have only come from none other than the “Maharaja of Indian Cricket”. Few people remember that Sourav scored just a meagre 3 runs in his international debut in Australia in 1992. His journey beyond that is for the history books — emerging as one of the finest Indian players ever to have played the game along with over 18,000 international runs. Quite a remarkable feat!
Hailing from Sourav’s city, Kolkata, I too looked at him as a hero during my school days, and I still do. There often used to be debates about whether Sourav’s form is declining in local addas and tea outlets across the city. He enjoys a cult status among all Kolkatans and in many ways cricket and Sourav Ganguly are synonymous to each other. While there might have been opinions on both sides of the argument, it was quite clear in the end of it that Sourav was special for any and every Kolkata. He is the hero of the city and not just Eden Gardens. Kolkata loves the Maharaja.
India also loves him and he’s truly an Indian hero. My first memory of Sourav dates back to his 1996 debut Test match at Lord’s where he became one of the few Indian players to have scored a century on debut. This was no mean achievement considering that Kolkata was primarily known as a football city and had not produced many cricketers who had done well at the international level. The stroke play that was on display in seaming English conditions was a model to behold. If one looks at the command with which Sourav mastered the conditions, it was clear that he belonged in the Indian dressing room for years to come.