Kolkata: The build-up to the acrimonious West Bengal elections, at the beginning of this year, had the national media often pitching it as a potential battle between ‘Didi’ (Mamata Banerjee) and ‘Dada’ (Sourav Ganguly). All that seems a distant past as Banerjee, whose Trinamool Congress swept to power with an overwhelming majority for a third term, turned up at the former Indian skipper and BCCI president Ganguly’s residence on Thursday afternoon to wish him on his 49th birthday.
The political grapevine was then rife - and not without reason - with talk of Ganguly, very much a cultural icon in Bengal and arguably its biggest ambassador now, being pitched by the Bharatiya Janata Party to take on the charisma of the West Bengal chief minister. The ifs and buts were laid to rest once Ganguly was indisposed in early January with a heart attack which needed coronary angioplasty with three stents - and with it the talk of any inclination on his part to take the plunge in politics gradually receded into the background.
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The birthdays of Ganguly, right from his playing days, had panned out to be quite an event - as it came with a mandate from our editors for the customary story, photos of cake cutting and in the best of times - tracking him throughout the whole day. The enthusiasm of the Kolkata media - be it print and digital - has not really ebbed over the years though access to him had proved difficult for them in the times of the pandemic.
The 49th one had a slightly sensitive ring about it after the health scare, and the city must have breathed a sigh of relief that Ganguly’s staying away from politics helped in ensuring that there had been no dent in his fan share. If anything, majority of them are happy that Ganguly has chosen to stick to his known turf - though the chair of the Indian cricket board’s president can be very much another hot seat.
The expectations from him had been sky-high ever since Ganguly took over in the latter half of 2019, and the COVID-19 pandemic with six months of his arrival had only made the job tougher. It involved some critical decision-making like shifting the whole of IPL 2020 to the UAE due to the health emergency, adverse public opinion when the BCCI continued with the fare amid mounting public criticism - and of course the call to shift the T20 World Cup to the UAE.
He has had enough on his plate - and must have realised that timing for those silken cover drives were far easier than this job. But then, very much like when he took up Indian captaincy with the sport was suffering from a credibility crisis in the country at the new millennium, Ganguly never shied away from rolling up his sleeves and taking up the challenge.
Happy birthday, Dada!