In a pre-tournament analysis of all the sides, I heard Sanjay Manjrekar saying that handing over the reigns of PWI to Sourav Ganguly 'makes no cricketing logic.' I wonder why he and other cynical experts love to loathe Ganguly. Same things were said when Ganguly was included in the side for South African tour of 2006. When he was dropped from the side earlier, these cynics rejoiced. But Sourav shut their mouths up by making a mother of all comebacks in 2006, and going on to play on the top of his game for the next 2 years. Why the likes of Manjrekar find no fault in a 41-year old Gilchrist leading the Kings XI Punjab. IPL is the only form of cricket that Gilchrist plays every year, not even bothering to participate in his country's domestic T20 bash. Yet, he remains the holy cow while Ganguly emerges as the favorite scapegoat.
Sourav has been training hard for four months now, playing in the domestic circuit, and in the process leading Bengal to its maiden Vijay Hazare trophy win. He is a born leader, who can walk into a side solely on his superlative captaincy skills. His batting, still, is better than many of those who are being paid millions of dollars in the IPL. There is no reason why Sourav Ganguly can not do to Pune, what Warne did to Rajasthan. In fact, he has a much better side at his disposal with the likes of Tamim Iqbal, Clarke, Jesse Ryder, Marlon Samuels, Robin Utthappa, Luke Wright and Rahul Sharma in the ranks.
But its not the team which makes Ganguly a formidable force. It's he himself, the never ending fairytale, which makes 'Dada' rise like a phoenix every time he is written off completely. He is very excited about this year's IPL and has been given a free hand by the team owners. At the ripe age of 39, he still has the same self-belief, aggression and passion for the game. Let's get it right- Sourav ganguly has nothing to prove anymore. He could have easily sat in the commentary box, sharing a few laughs with Shashtri or that stupid man Manjrekar. It is only the passion for the game of cricket, which is still driving Sourav Ganguly. Albeit on a high, he retired a bit pre-maturely in 2008. IPL gives him a chance to give back to the game and to the people who still have faith in him.
I am not expecting the moon from Sourav Ganguly and Pune Warriors this year. But rest assured, it will not be a meek surrender either. Sourav will play hard, play for his pride and inspire some good performances from the youngsters. He may not be the same batsman anymore, but he remains the same motivational leader, a fierce competitor and a dedicated student of the game. Cynics have come and gone while Sourav has quietly scripted some most unimaginative successes in his glorious cricketing career. And perhaps it is this never say never attitude, which makes Sourav Ganguly an ageless wonder.
I will not get into prediction business, as far as Pune's fortunes in this IPL is concerned. But I can firmly say that Sourav Ganguly will be the man who will ensure that Pune end this IPL with their heads held high. Trust me when I say this, (and you should certainly not trust someone like Sanjay Manjrekar)- Never Write Sourav Ganguly Off.