Ganguly back from wilderness

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The Independent Online
It has taken only two matches for Saurav Ganguly to debunk the notion that this Indian team is one of only two batsmen of genuine Test match calibre, and raise questions about why a player of such obvious talent should have spent almost five years in the international wilderness.

Having made history with his debut Test century at Lord's, the 23-year- old left-hander from Calcutta demonstrated emphatically yesterday that he intends never again to give India a reason to discard him as they did in 1991, following his solitary appearance in a one-day international in Austrlia.

It was not an auspicious start. Struggling against the pace of Anderson Cummins of the West Indies, Ganguly, then only 18, made just three runs, but his subsequent exlusion from the side until the current tour has prompted suspicions that he was the victim, if not of prejudice, then of pre-conceived ideas about his capability.

Ganguly had first to overcome the historical dominance of Bombay in producing Test players and a belief held in some quarters that the Bengal people tend to lack the qualities needed to succeed at the highest level. There had been suggestions also that, having being given privileges and opportunities as a young man, he was required to prove himself to a greater degree than others.

His father, a wealthy printer, is a prominent figure in the Bengal Cricket Association as well as an MCC member. At the large family home on the outskirts of Calcutta, Saurav has had the benefit of a cricket pitch in the grounds as well as a well-equipped gymnasium.

It cannot have helped that, even before he became a prolific run-gatherer in domestic cricket, he was nicknamed "Maharaj'' or that stories were put about - denied by his family - that he viewed carrying his own bags as beneath his dignity.

Stung into introversion, it is said, by his experience in Australia, Ganguly worked to perfect the off-drives that served him so well yesterday and enabled him to emerge as a wonderfully effective partner to Sachin Tendulkar in guiding India from their early difficulties to a position of strength.