Ganguly holds a very special place in Indian cricket history. For a specific time period in his cricket days he was the most hated and most loved player in the team. His days as a captain has got to be one of the most remembered ones in recent times. More than his performance on the off side, his partnership with Sachin in ODIs, his run in with Greg Chappell etc. it is his role as a captain which shaped up a young team for which he is most remembered.
He became captain at a difficult time in the wake of the match fixing and, along with the likes of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble, forged a team that was formidable at home and more than competitive overseas. His relationship with John Wright, India’s first foreign coach proved to be the catalyst for India’s admirable show in away tours. Ganguly emphasised on the need to be fearless and he led by example in this aspect. He finished his career as India’s most successful captain and led India to a World Cup final too in 2003. For all his success as captain his batting form took a turn for the worse during his time as captain. Ganguly burst into collective memory in 1996 with back to back Test hundreds in England.
In 2005 Greg Chappell took over as India’s coach from John Wright. The relationship between the two strongly opinionated people cracked as time went by. It came out into the open when Chappell’s dismissive mail to the BCCI criticising Ganguly’s ability to lead the side was leaked to the media. The long drawn drama ended when Ganguly was finally dropped from the national team and Rahul Dravid was named as his successor. He continued to be on and off in the team for a while but failed to prove his place. He got another chance on the tour to South Africa in 2006 after he was recalled to add some experience to a team that had faced a humiliating exit in the just concluded Champions trophy.
Relieved off the pressure of captaincy and coming back after a while Ganguly was hungry for runs that could restore his reputation. He went on batting in calm manner and ended up as the highest run scorer in the series. His amazing run scoring in 2007 earned him a place in the highest run scorer of 2007 just behind Jacques Kallis.
His ODI performances were on an upswing too after earning a Man of the series award against Sri Lanka. This was also the year when Ganguly recorded his career best of 239 against Pakistan in a Test in Bangalore. These performances however failed to earn him a spot in the CB series in Australia in 2008 when the selectors opted for a young team with an eye on the future.
His form dipped once again as he failed to produce the big scores in a series against Sri Lanka and questions were raised once more regarding his inclusion for Australia’s tour. Ganguly answered the questions by choosing to retire immediately after the Australia series. He was given an emotional farewell with the captain MS Dhoni handing him over the captaincy for a while in the end of his last Test in Nagpur in 2008.
Ganguly retains his magnetic ability to attract attention much like his playing days when things like him waving his shirt on the Lord’s balcony, his coming late for the toss etc grabbed headlines. He has also taken a new avatar as a TV analyst and commentator but he remained an active player in the domestic circuit even three years after his retirement and played both in the Ranji trophy and the IPL with success until 2012.
The Government of West Bengal honoured Ganguly with the Banga Bibhushan Award on 20 May 2013. He was also awarded the Padma Shri, one of the highest civilian awards in India, in 2004.