May 7, 2011

Boria Majumdar: IPL's showcase face-off

An impending battle between KKR owner Shahrukh Khan and his former skipper Saurav Ganguly will be a treat for sore eyes in the IPL.

By Boria Majumdar
I have been grumbling for a while that the IPL isn’t just taking off. No major controversy yet, the usual suspects performing, no major organizational lapse, expected drop in television ratings given the cricket calendar and also the killing of Osama Bin Laden, which had taken over the world of news across the globe the past week.

Amidst all of this there was one piece of news that helped light up the IPL horizon—Saurav Ganguly making yet another comeback as a Warrior and will be padding up against the Kolkata Knight Riders in Mumbai on 19 May. Yes the Warriors are languishing at the bottom of the IPL table given their inability to close out matches from winning positions but that doesn’t take anything away from this very special contest, one between Bengal and Kolkata perhaps.

Ganguly is still the single biggest icon in my part of the world in the East and it is an ethnography worth doing to check how many in Bengal supports Pune on the 19th with their favorite son playing for the Pune outfit against KKR. It will be a different version of the Tebbit Test, city loyalty versus individual charisma, support for the city team versus love for an individual. Signs are it will be a very close contest with Kolkata and Bengal deeply divided on the issue.

Knowing Saurav Ganguly well it is only foolish to write him off. Having said that, it is a fight that is going to be the most difficult of his career, a reality he knows only too well. When he made his fairytale comeback in 2006, he was an international cricketer and was in constant touch with the game. Even when he answered the Buchanan snub in 2010, he had played a lot of domestic cricket leading up to the IPL and coupled with his incredible mental resolve was favorite once again do it at IPL stage.

2011, however, is different. Saurav hasn’t played much domestic cricket at all in the lead up to the competition. The call up, to quote one of his closest aides, was “totally unexpected.” In fact, when Warriors team Director Abhijit Sarkar, the brain behind this move, called him on the Sunday night, he was almost in bed! That he got his kit out after the hour long conversation with Sarkar only proves how much he was craving for this opportunity, the most important factoid that makes the contest on the 19th a really special one. Saurav sweated it out at the Eden for more than three hours on Monday morning and has been practicing twice a day for hours since he joined the team on Wednesday, 4th May.

For him it is not about money. As he has himself said on many occasions, it doesn’t matter whether he gets his 400,000 USD or not. What does matter is can he redeem himself? Can he avenge the ill treatment meted out to him at the IPL auction and can he demonstrate for one final time that there’s some cricket left in him?
Can he still face up to Brett Lee on a bouncy DY Patil track and prove his critics wrong? It is all about reputation and that’s what has made the contest the real big face off between the country’s two leading icons, Shahrukh Khan and Saurav Ganguly. Pune Warriors and KKR have suddenly turned incidental to the whole script with these two leading entertainers taking center stage.

For Khan and his men Ganguly will provide that extra incentive to perform, not to mention the opportunity to make the play offs. If they are able to get Ganguly cheaply, their owner, more than anyone else, will breathe a sigh of relief for anything to the contrary and he will have to answer a million questions when he makes it to Kolkata before the match against the Mumbai Indians on the 22nd.

The stakes, one must admit, are high making it the IPL’s showcase face off, something that the tournament was badly in need of. Let’s hope the days leading up to this contest will spice it up further. It might well be that the match turns a must win for Kolkata to make the next stage while a loss against Pune might yet again shatter Shahrukh Khan’s dream of winning the coveted IPL trophy. Neither Khan nor Ganguly will want to lose this one. Yes, this is what sport is all about. A captivating tale of high intense drama with more than credibility is at stake. I, as a fan, can’t wait for this one to unfold.
Courtesy: Boria Majumdar/

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