It’s better in a way that Sourav Ganguly, the former Indian captain and ‘dada’ (elder brother) of Indian cricket, has chosen to spend his 50th birthday in the UK. Around this time of the year, it has been almost a ritual for him - much like good friend Sachin Tendulkar - to spend in the cooler climes of London and the final Test between India and England in Edgbaston must have been a handy excuse to spend quality family time with daughter Sana who is studying there.
As he completes a half-century in the journey of life on Friday, the physical demands on him would have been humongous if Ganguly had decided to stay put in his own city of Kolkata. The adulation for Ganguly, who has transcended into a cultural icon for the Bengali society since he embarked on his eventful journey in international cricket 26 years back with that century on Test debut at the Lord’s, has been unabated a good 14 years after he signed off from the international arena.
Each July 8, much like his playing days, still invites hordes of media personnel (replaced more by the electronic media over the years) at the iron gates of his palatial residence, clamouring to be let in for their share of ‘exclusive’ clips of Ganguly cutting the birthday cake as well as some sound bytes. The demand would have been manifold this time, as the efforts of some of the media houses to cash in on the occasion for the so called advance celebrations indicated.
Such fanfare can be scary, though Ganguly certainly seems to revel in it. It’s difficult to say if it’s the fear of a division in his loyalty base which prompted him to take a step back from entering the political arena early last year when it was hardly a secret that the BJP was mulling the prospects of pitching ‘Dada’ as their chief ministerial candidate. The health scare certainly helped him make up his mind on that occasion, though in his own words, one cannot take anything for granted for future.
While the other illustrious members of the ‘Fab Four’ have kept themselves easy primarily with cricketing pursuits (with the Little Master maintaining a exclusivity there too) - Ganguly has broken free of any such inhibitions to limit himself to it. He is no stranger to trolling in the social media for endorsing anything from a jewellery line to nutri nuggets while being a BCCI president, played the anchor successfully for one of the longest running TV reality shows while he had been also the most sought-after guest of honour for functions of any hue and purpose.
Without sitting on a moral high ground, one has to admit that he has been able to retain a degree of charisma and saleability to be a face that could still launch a thousand products. He certainly has his contradictions, but even the biggest detractor of Ganguly will endorse a burning desire to succeed against all odds right from cricketing days - and not be afraid to roll up his sleeves and take up responsibilities which he could have well left alone in the corridors of uncertainty. If this started with him taking up the mantle of Indian captaincy in 2000 at a time when the image of the game was in tatters in the country, he was not loathe to take up administration in Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) and then the hot seat of BCCI.
Let’s face it, he is ambitious - and is often ridden with self doubts like any other human being. But then, he is not averse to come out of his comfort zone (commentary box, coaching?) and take up new challenges. As he takes a fresh guard having officially entered the middle age, one would wait and watch for his next move. Could it be the president’s chair at International Cricket Council (ICC) ? Politics? Or that hidden dream of playing the mentor to the Indian cricket team in distant future?
Let’s wait and watch...