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A Century Is Not Enough by Sourav Ganguly review: Look back in candour

A Century Is Not Enough: My Roller Coaster Ride To Success

A Century Is Not Enough: My Roller Coaster Ride To Success  

Nervous first-timer to powerful captain, Sourav Ganguly, the pan-India hero from Bengal, opens up about his cricketing life

Sourav Ganguly’s cricketing career was a melange of dramatic moments and through it he always stayed relevant. The southpaw’s batting once made his fellow Test debutant at Lord’s, Rahul Dravid, not known for hyperbole, to utter that oft-quoted tribute: “On the offside, first there is God, then Sourav Ganguly.” And in the parallel universe of Indian cricket captains ranging from Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi to M.S. Dhoni, Ganguly held a unique space.

If his batting largely was a thing of beauty, Ganguly’s twilight years were darkened through a discord with coach Greg Chappell. In the resultant turmoil, Chappell left, while Ganguly, who was dropped for a while, made a riveting comeback and bowed out in style. True to Ganguly-lore that oscillated between ecstasy and pathos, he scored 85 and 0 in his final Test at Nagpur against Australia in 2008.

 

A decade after he folded his Test whites, Ganguly opens up about a journey from nervous first-timer in the India-shade in 1992 to the swansong that stretched into a few seasons of the Indian Premier League. His book, A Century Is Not Enough, co-authored with senior sports writer Gautam Bhattacharya, throws light upon the self-belief that powered Ganguly. The pan-India hero from Bengal, makes his template obvious in the preface: “From the outside most people see the adulation and hero worship but what does not get seen is the mind within.”

The early years

Over 254 pages, Ganguly deconstructs his playing days and there is candour and the obvious never-say-die spirit. The early parts deal with the gawkiness of his formative months when he was acutely conscious about senior room-mate Dilip Vengsarkar during the 1992 tour of Australia. Ganguly ended up spending more time in Sachin Tendulkar’s room and their friendship often forms the subtext in many episodes through the book.

There are nuggets about Tendulkar taping his friend’s bat-handle while India toured England in 1996, a sojourn in which Ganguly scored a debut hundred at Lord’s and silenced the whispers about him being picked as an ‘East Zone quota’ candidate. That he yearned for validation becomes evident when he is moved by his captain Mohammad Azharuddin’s gesture of gifting a watch. “At the beginning of the tour he had not believed in my abilities and had doubted my selection in the team. But all that changed with my performance. Azhar was honest enough to admit this and appreciate my performance,” Ganguly writes. In the book, Ganguly busts the yarns about him, like the alleged refusal to accompany the drinks-trolley on his maiden visit to Australia. He also tones down the extent to which he made Steve Waugh wait at the toss in that epic 2001 Test series, which India won 2-1 and is remembered for V.V.S. Laxman’s 281. Or even that image, which he wants us to forget, about him baring his chest and twirling the T-shirt after India won the Natwest Series at Lord’s in 2002.

Ganguly even states that a soft-drink commercial specific to the time he was omitted from the Indian squad and aimed at working our tear-glands and reach for a glass of fizz, was forced upon him by a contractual obligation.

The Chappell saga

If a major chunk of the book is about correcting perceptions, when it comes to Chappell or even his Kolkata Knight Riders coach John Buchanan, Ganguly seeks catharsis and drops his veneer of political correctness. “The battle with Chappell was the darkest chapter of my cricketing life,” Ganguly remembers and then there is a touching reference to a conversation with his father, who tells him: “Maharaj, trust me, I don’t see any window for you.”

Understanding ‘Dada’

Ever the contrarian, Ganguly sets out to prove that he will go on his own terms and there are references to his regimental training, the runs in domestic cricket and the emphatic return.

Truly, Ganguly’s was a splendid career — a cumulative tally of 18,575 international runs, 171 wickets and 132 catches — and as a captain he steered Indian cricket from the choppy waters of match-fixing and shepherded Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh.

But as you wind down the book, there is this doubt that the voice and the tonality isn’t exactly his. Ganguly spoke well and most of his press conferences prove that. So it reads awkward when he lapses into the third-person and writes ‘Sourav Ganguly give yourself...’. At some points, the writing befits the subject but often it gets heavy on platitudes and is contrived too as evident in this line: “But then in the rush, rush superfast lane of the IPL, history is meant only for the history books.” Yet, as a reference to a gripping phase of Indian cricket and to understand ‘Dada’, as Ganguly is called by his fans, this book has its merits.

A Century Is Not Enough: My Roller Coaster Ride To Success; Sourav Ganguly with Gautam Bhattacharya, Juggernaut, ₹699.

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