I Was There
When i started the journey from mumbai along with my cameraman I was told specifically to go to Rajkot first (Baroda was my other destination) because Sourav Ganguly would be making his comeback after his controversial tour of Zimbabwe. Everything for him went wrong in that tour and in a way no one in media supported him because everyone needed someone to criticize and Ganguly was that man for the Indian media.
When i eventually reached at Rajkot the buzz was already there. Half of the ground was filled as everyone wanted to see DADA bat. For most of them their wish came true in the dying moments of 1st day. Rohan Gavskar was out and with just few overs remaining Ganguly batted with Caution till the stumps.
The evening was Bizzare. I waited for 2 hours in the hotel lobby with a hope that ganguly would come down and maybe i can have a small chat with him but instead i had a interview with Shahbaz Nadeem, the then young emerging left arm spinner, from Jharkhand.
Next day everything was setup an hour before the match began. The ground was almost full of capacity. People of all age group were out there and all they wanted to see was their 'DADA'. I had the priveledge to sit near the boundry ropes. Once the match began, Ganguly's bat started to talk.
North Zone had a wonderful bowling attack for a domestic team. It consisted of Gagandeep Singh, Amit Bhandari, Amit Mishra and Sarandeep Singh who had already played for India and a very Young VRV singh who would go on to play for India.
Ganguly was tried with bouncers, but he just initially doged his way to a well controlled 50 but after his 50 he was uncontrollable. He treated Mishra and Sarandeep Singh with Disdain. Gangully eventually brought his century with a huge six of Sarandeep Singh. Dancing down the track he just picked the ball as if he was a left arm spinner.
I guess that was the speciality of Ganguly. He loved pressure and the weight of expectation on him. The entire country was watching him closely after the Zimbabwean Tour. Selectors, Coach, Close freind in Dravid all were against him. They all wanted him Dead and Burried but here was a man who wanted to prove everyone wrong. Everytime he went out to bat, feilded a ball, came out in the dressing room people cheered for him. To many cricketers that can be disturbing especially when not everything is going right for them but Ganguly always had that half smile on his face.
That year Ganguly played in the most remote places in India and while he was playing in the domestic cricket Chappell along with Kiran More and Rahul Dravid was spreading a hate campaign against him. Yet he kept fighting and eventually helped Bengal to reach Ranji's Final that year.
Now that he is gone and when i hear him talk about his life in wilderness i somehow always take that special pride in reminding myself that I was there from where his second Innings in his cricketing journey began.