Sourav Ganguly is one of the celebrated names of Indian cricket. Apart from being a fine batter, he, as a captain, also taught the team to win test matches abroad. But along with that, he was also a handy medium pace bowler. He has had quite a few moments of glory with the ball but the one being talked about here is quite underrated.
It happened in the second test match between India and Australia in Kolkata’s Eden Gardens in March 1998.
There is a story behind why Ganguly was asked to open the bowling in that match. In the first test, before this match, India went in with two fast bowlers – Javagal Srinath and debutant Harvinder Singh – and three spinners in the form of Anil Kumble, Venkatapathy Raju and Rajesh Chauhan. They won the match comprehensively by 179 runs.
This might come as a surprise for people from today’s era but back then India going in with three specialist spinners in home matches was quite normal. The pitches back then used to assist spinners even more. So, for the second test, there was no way India was going to remove any of the three spinners.
The team was keen on including VVS Laxman as an additional batter. Hence, the only person that could have been removed from the 11 was Harvinder Singh. He didn’t bowl badly in the first test, which was his debut, and he did get the important wicket of the Australian captain Mark Taylor caught behind.
At that time, the Australian commentator Ian Chappel said quite confidently that picking up the only wicket of the Assuie skipper is enough for Singh to be selected in the second test, as not much was expected from the seamers in these conditions. But the Indian team management proved him wrong in the second test.
Ganguly being given the new ball along with Srinath was more like a formality. They were just waiting for the ball to get old, so that the spinners could come into action. But Ganguly had other plans.
He started troubling Taylor right from his first over. In fact, it seemed as if he got him caught behind, only for the umpire to call it a no-ball. However, Dada soon got the left hander caught behind again, much to his jubilation as well as his home crowd in Kolkata.
India was on top as the Aussie were 29 for 4 with Srinath picking the other 3 wickets. In the video shared below, Chappel is heard saying when number 6 batter Ricky Ponting comes in to bat early, “Ricky Ponting wouldn’t have been expecting to come in before lunch. Here he is in before drinks.”
But that’s not all as far as Ganguly’s heroics with the ball were concerned. Believe or not, but he, with his medium pace, deceived Michael Kasprowicz with a bouncer in his next spell and Azharuddin took a flying catch at wide gully. He then got the last wicket of Gavin Robertson, finishing with fine figures of 3 for 28.
Australia got all out for just 233 and India declared their first innings at a humongous 633 for 5 with Azhar top-scoring with 163 not out. Ganguly scored 65 but, funnily, this was the lowest score of all the batters who got out in the innings. India won the match by an innings and 219 runs. The team lost the third test in Bangalore but it had already won the series before that.