The Real Great "Bong"

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It’s something I have observed whenever I am in a mixed group of Indians watching a cricket match involving India. As soon as Ganguly gets out cheaply wafting at one outside the off stump or fending one off his ribs (regrettably both becoming a recurrent feature) people from different parts of the country seem to hold me responsible . Some will say “Aare Arnab , Dada has failed yet again” , some will abuse Ganguly while looking at me. Somehow I am anointed as the Ganguly surrogate on whom to vent their collective spleen. The reason is obvious–I being the only Bengali most of the time (the graduate student population I have always interacted with at Stonybrook have always been South Indians—Gults and Tams predominantly and Marathis) in the group makes me responsible/answerable for Ganguly’s batting woes in the eyes of non-Bongs. However Sachin Tendulkar’s boo-boos (and I can reel off several) and Rahul Dravid’s inability to get the ball past 15 yards may bring forth a passing remark or two (never on the scale of the vitriol reserved for Dada)— however Marathis and Bangaloreans are never never pulled up for the follies of these two heroes.

And that brings me to a question I have never found a satisfying answer for:

Why is Saurav Ganguly intrinsicly associated with Bengal to an extent no other Indian cricketer is associated with his origins?

I dont really understand it. In my opinion Ganguly’s greatest contribution to Indian cricket is that he has never been guided by parochial feelings——-among all India captains in the past ten years, he has never let his judgment be affected by his roots. Look at the people he has supported —–Harbhajan and Yuvraj from Punjab, Sehwag from Delhi, Zaheer Khan from Gujarat. Many of the people he has backed despite media/selectorial opposition have vindicated their faith in him—-some like Agarkar and Parthiv Patel have not. But the point to note is that unlike Sachin or Azharuddin the people he stuck his neck out for were people he believed in only because of their ability and not because they played for the same Ranji team or spoke the same language.

In contrast Sachin, for all his greatness as a batsman, could never look beyond Mumbai. Under him, old pals like Vinod Kambli (to be fair Kambli had talent that was ultimately ruined by his own indiscipline) and Sanjay Manjrekar (his early promise mysteriously disappeared) had an extended run in the national team even when they were past their sell-by-date. At least it could be said that Kambli and Manjrekar had showed promise at some point of their careers——–what of Abey Kuruvilla, Nilesh Kulkarni and Sairaj Bahutule ? The only thing that connected them was their singular lack of talent and performance and oh yes they all played for Mumbai. Before that was Azharuddin who single-handedly destroyed the career of Subroto Banerjee to further Srinath’s in the 92 tour to South Africa. Venkatapathy Raju, Azhar’s Ranji teammate, used to come up with sporadic performances throughout the 90s, get dropped and keep on coming back like a bad penny thanks to the support he got from our “boys didn’t play well” Azhar

Yet it’s always Ganguly who has been the “Prince of Calcutta” and not Sachin “Mumbai Mawali” .

A non-Bengali friend of mine who had a few issues with Bengalis once told me that Bengalis are known to be lazy, arrogant and bossy and that Saurav Ganguly embodies that stereotype. He argued that Ganguly does not deserve to be in the team based on his batting and that his reputation as a captain is built on the performances of Dravid and Sachin. Ganguly does nothing except to simply supply sound bytes to the press and shamelessly appropriate the labours of others as achievements of his captaincy. In addition, Ganguly is a selfish batsman who cares only for his personal achievements, is a lazy sportsman who does not like to run singles or work on his fitness (his abysmal fielding is proof of that) and who captains the team like an arrogant autocratic Maharaj shouting orders at others while his own performance leaves much to be desired.

I don’t want to bring a whole lot of statistics into it but I think we all know who in the world has the greatest ODI record after Sachin. Sure that does not make Ganguly the greatest in Test matches but since World Cup 2003 Ganguly has been averaging more than 50 in both forms of the game which shows, that at the very least, he deserves to be in the team as a batsman. There is no room for doubt–Sachin and Dravid are far better batsmen that Dada but that does not make Ganguly any less valuable to the team as a batsman.

Sachin’s tenure as captain was a disaster both for his personal form as well as for the team. Dravid averages 17 in Tests when he is the captain. Both Sachin and Rahul Dravid are known to be self-absorbed cricketers——–Sachin’s failure as a captain was acknowledged to be the fact that he expected superhuman performances from everyone which led to team mates being alienated. Dravid looks outwards only when he is satisfied with his own game—the moment he gets a little bit out of form he withdraws totally within himself. Ganguly on the other hand never loses the intensity needed from a captain even when his personal form goes to pieces. He has shown time and time again——Dada does not mentally disintegrate. He sticks up for the people he believes in and in the process earns the respect of his colleagues——the mark of a true leader.

Ganguly is selfish. Well I have seen him slowing down before personal landmarks but which Indian batsman does not do so? Ok Sehwag does not but who else ?Sachin, Dravid , Laxman….everyone has done so. We Indians are intensely conscious of personal achievements and we as a nation worship statistics——–so let’s not make Saurav an example.

All this is quite beside the point. Which if you remember was why Ganguly is linked to his linguistic heritage like no other player? Lets look at an article about Laloo Yadav published in the Rediff (and titled as a “must read) and read the gross generalizations made about Bengalis.

The zamindars began to exploit the farmers for more and more and also, they themselves did nothing to develop the land’s productivity. In fact, zamindari lifestyle meant doing nothing. Any kind of physical activity was looked down upon, and this can still be seen in Bengal.

Bihar was created because of the supercilious superiority attitude of the Bengalis and because some of the Kayasthas (one of Bihar’s smallest forward castes) resented the Bengalis domination of the British Raj administration.

Can you imagine such gross generalizations being made against any other linguistic, social or religious group in mainstream Indian media ? I cannot.

Such a negative mindset against Bengalis can be seen all throughout India and nowhere more so than in the cricketing fraternity. Zonal selection boards and the Mumbai lobby kept out many deserving Bengali players throughout the 50s to 80s. When Ganguly was first selected in 91, he was the victim of a vicious conspiracy by the then-manager of the India team Ranbir Singh (the BCCI president). In his report about Ganguly, Mr Singh did the easiest thing to do to a Bong—paint him as a lazy work-shirking individual who asked Kapil Dev to carry his bag (a version denied by Kapil but something that found its way into Ganguly’s assessment by the manager).

This damning report about Dada combined with selectorial myopia kept him out for another 6 years till the tour to England where his selection was dubbed as a “case of blatant selectorial regional bias”. This charge was put to rest when Ganguly whacked back-to-back centuries against England in Lords and Leeds. Yet soon Wadekar had him dropped for the Toronto cup in order to make way for state-mate Hiphop Kambli………again a tour de force performance from Ganguly with bat and ball enabled him to make his spot permanent. In short, contrary to the image painted by his detractors of Ganguly being born with a golden spoon who has had it easy all through his life, the real situation is that fewer cricketers in the Indian team has had it as tough as him.

Which brings me to the point……finally. I am proud when people associate me with Ganguly because of my being a Bengali. That is because , ironically, Ganguly is the antithesis of the Bengali stereotype. He is a fighter and a trier. Despite being not as naturally talented as Sachin or Dravid and having well-documented weaknesses, his ODI record is the second best in the world. He has relentlessly battled prejudices coming up through India’s cricketing structure. He has witnessed , first hand, the way administrators destroy careers and in turn has worked to ensure that what almost happened to him does not happen to the new generation of cricketers ———–regardless of which state they are from.

On paper he is the most successful Indian captain ever and that is reason enough to guarantee him his place in history. But his greatest legacy will remain the fact that he has taught Indian cricketers to look the opposition in the eye and to “act with confidence”———an attitude that symbolizes not only the cricket team but also the new resurgent India.

I am not a parochial person. I do not think that linguistic/social/religious groups have defining characteristics nor do I subscribe to the jingoistic exclusivism predominant among much of the Bengali elite. However once I am painted with the “Bengali brush” I fight back. Just like Dada. I proclaim loudly for all to hear——-

Listen all ye haters, I am proud to be a Dada-fan and to come from the same state as him. He is the true “Bengal Tiger”…. and if you think thats a manifestation of the “supercilious superiority attitude of the Bengalis” I hope that you stand in silly mid off the next time Ganguly launches into his off-side glide.

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34 thoughts on “The Real Great "Bong"

  1. I agree with you wholeheartedly – Dada rules!

    However, I think one of the reasons that make non-Bengalis hate Dada so much is the way Bengalis appropriated him after his debut. As far as many Bengalis are concerned – the Indian team can go to hell as long as Dada scores a century. I don’t blame them either. He is the first great Bengali sportsman since Jaideep Mukkherjee. So non-Bengalis hate Dada not for his own parochialism (which is nonexistent) but for the parochialism he arouses in others.

  2. @Gamesmaster…

    I agree. Bengalis supporting Ganguly (even when India loses) is totally a reaction to the anti-Ganguly fundamentalism…..it’s regrettable but it’s only natural.

    Point to note: In orkut there is an anti-Ganguly community (started by the same people who used to barrack me/Ganguly @Stonybrook)—making him the only cricket player to have a hate community. And that too run by his countrymen.

  3. great one.pseud.why only ganguly,bengalis are so inappropriately associated with so many things,which seem to bear to others ,the “stamp” of bengali identity.
    communism ,for example,and even country music!!! bangalore pseuds whose knowledge of rock music start at floyd and end at metallica, have an idea that “country music” is some really country stuff that only bongs hear!!!!take that!!!

    he he

  4. coming down to even finer levels of parochialism,its not ‘saurav’ganguly,but ‘sourav’ganguly.
    sahring the same name as teh legandary bong,this non bong interpretation of the spelling struck me first

  5. I absolutely agree. I am a maharashtrian and I still hate Sachin “Gimme more money” Tendulkar.. He is a wimp who will never take a stand and comment on anything, except when it comes to “asking tax concessions for his allegedly gifted ferrari” and “crying about the team declaration when he was just nearing his double century”..
    A selfish batsman, who only cares about his personal milestones (read centuries).. he is well aware that statistics will always be remembered more than real heroics..
    alas dada is none of the above and still indians love to hate him. Am i proud to be indian now? you answer..

  6. this article really sucks. it is a well known fact that ganguly is selfish mong for whom the only concern is his personal achievements.

  7. Non-bengalis don’t like Saurav Ganguly coz biased Bengalis think Saurav Ganguly is even above India. You can see an example in news everyday the way they are protesting over Ganguly’s exclusion. “No Ganguly No cricket” is just too much. Bengalis worship Dada as their demi-God. Believe me I have even seen Bengalis cursing Indian team to lose during the recent Srilanka-India series only because Saurav was not in the team. It’s because of Bengali people’s attitude that people don’t like Saurav Ganguly.
    They over-praise Ganguly always…

    Oh!!!! How much I wish that bongs become non-bongs for a day, they will get to see the selfishness of Ganguly and all the things which they can’t see with their biased minds and eyes.Alas! But this is just a dream which is not possible and we have to bear DADAS (not just Ganguly) and their DADAGIRIS again.

  8. Reason the author doesn’t understand why he is always associated with his origin because he is still wearing that bong shirt. Seriously, in which state you find people burning effigies of coach, player for not including their players. I am from chennai. I am the first one to say KKD should be replaced by Dhoni ASAP. We have seen the track record of calcutta eden garden crowd which is nothing but despicable. Even for this match they were wearing south african cap and cheering India’s failure. No Indian from any state would have done such an unpatriotic act. Obviously i hate Ganguly even more after this incident. I wish Ganguly is used to carry drinks in chennai.

  9. I agree with your article but however we cannot overlook the fact that Ganguly has not been in the best of forms lately and moreover he is doing nothing to improve his weaknessess …like fielding ,chasing away going deliveries without footwork and ofcourse running between wickets ..which I am afraid was not any better in the recent test against SriLanka (I have not included his nemsis the rising deliveries on a dead India pitch) so how long can you justify his place in the team at the expence of another upcoming player …which kind of goes against his own policy of giving a young player a chance but this time at his own expense…..

  10. There is no doubt that this is an article by a true blood bong who cannot and does not look beyond his own nose. And like all bongs wants more that is due. All said and done there is no doubt that Saurav Ganguly is a crooked, manipulative and extremely selfish person who will go to any lengths to save his ass. Although there is definely no denying his contribution to Indian cricket and his own record, it is for one and all to see that Saurav Ganguly is hopelessly past his time. And yet he refuses to go. After all like a true bong he wants more that is due. Well my dear writer, the article was well writen but unfortunately you are too much of a bong to give a neutral view. But then when have bongs been fair?

  11. wat kind of horrible dirty mud-slinging is this? i chanced upon this blog recently, and am horrified looking at the languages being used. i think it just gives away our immaturity and biasedness towards everything. views, im sure, can be expressed in a more civil manner as well. is it surprising then, that we kill each other in the name of religion and other excuses??

  12. I feel that dada was more criticized by the media. Undoubtedly he was the most successful captain of India and during his regime the indian team though not the best always tried to prove that they are second to none. The flare was apparent…
    Talking much abt the other captains, Azhar didnt perform well while he was a captain. Sachin’s performance as a captain was a disaster. Though I dont question their talent and some odd performances. But the fact is Sachin is never critcized to the extent Dada is blamed. Sachin comes in an innings and scores a century and shamelessly leaves the field for a score less than 25 in all the matches for another couple of series. But the media is too busy to moveover from Dada… Though his performance has not been even to a satisfactory, he is definately not a figure who needs to be cursed.
    In regards to backing up, Ganguly too backed up parthiv patel, who simply toured england and passed his time eating pastries at the parties during the world cup of 2003.
    I feel he not be the greatest batsmen for the Indian cricket team but one of the most valuable player and the king of kings when it came to captaincy of the indian cricket team.

  13. All the above blog is crap…..as indian cricket team has broken my heart “n” number of times….as from seemingly winning situations..they have thrown their bat away…sometimes..i feel like exploding my TV set..but cant…never keep faith in this Indian team…but watch and enjoy them from distance…..to avoid..heart attack…..

    From well wisher (India)

  14. “……his greatest legacy will remain the fact that he has taught Indian cricketers to look the opposition in the eye”. Completely agree with you there. Apart from the well known shirt waving incident, he was the only Indian captain who had the gall to make an opposing captain of Steve Waugh’s calibre wait for the toss. With his ouster, the concept of aggression left the Indian team forever.

  15. As a bengali, I guess have the same magical inexplicable fondness for Sourav, as most of my bengali friends do. But that doesn’t mean I curse the rest of the communities, much like some the the ones who have posted their comments have done. Wonder where all the hatred come from?
    And I like the article. Indeed a treat as I could relate to most of it…..except the “Bong” word in the title. ‘Bangali’ sounds so much nicer 🙂

  16. Just one thing that goes on to prove the point; No matter what Indian people say about Saurav (bad of course) but when it comes to captaincy they all and i mean all (BCCI included) want a captain like Ganguly…who wants to lookinto the eye of the storm and say Hi!! and when it comes to Indian public looking for Six they want to see a Six hit like Ganguly does.
    Curse him, abuse him, do whatever, but at the end of the day conciously or subconciously you only want player like him in every other player..no one wants a Rahul or Sachin…everyone wants a ganguly…and yes whatever people say … he still is our best captain till date…most entertaining cricketer till date and most powerfulll cricket entity till date in Indian history..believe it or don’t believe it…Saurav will stay in the heart of millions of Bongs who draw inspiration from his fighting spirit…can Sachin boast that…can Rahul boast that…rest are not worth mentioning.
    Bottomline is you can’t take anything away from this BONG…
    Cheers…

  17. I dont know wat this topic is goin on but if u see the record from 97 to 00 he was the highest run getter for india before his captaincy more number of centuries even sachin

  18. Mr Bong, this definitely goes as one of your best write-ups. I for one always used to think does this man deserve a place in the side, but there definitely was a time when Gangully took his foot off the accelerator and was resting more on the laurels of the Invincible Dravid and an emerging Sehwag. But the inputs you have about Sachin and friends, a reincarnation of swami and friends almost after a century and Azar’s persistence of VPR are very astute. You however did not make a mention of the era when Karnataka was team India, courtesy one of India’s finest batsmen was at the helm of BCCI, else you cannot fathom the fact that players like David Johnson, Vijay Bharadwaj and even Surjit Somsunder found a place in the Indian team.

    The zenith point was the emphasis on a leader not disintegrating when his own performance lets him down, which on retrospection never seemed to be the case with Saurav.

    Publish this Article elsewhere, in case you already haven’t and Ganguly can win a Lok Sabha seat even from West Mumbai, knowing how emotion mass hysteria rules the discernment of we Indians.

  19. I feel that Dhoni should retire voluntarily from all forms of cricket. Even though I am from Ranchi i feel that its high time Dhoni should stop playing cricket, leave apart captaining the national side. I just can’t recall any of his good innings except that 183 which according to me was bad Sri Lankan bowling more than anything else. He is extremely fortunate to have gotten a team like this. I don’t understand his apathy towards batting up in the order. May be its his cowardice approach, fear of media flank or he is aware of his limitations. He has stuck into this Indian team like a leach sucking blood. His reluctance to give chance to other talented players like Saurabh Tiwari, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Abhishek Nayar etc. may prove fatal to the future of Indian cricket. Another thing which is hard to justify is the need of these cricketers to indulge in add shoots. I know that nothing comes for free and at the end of the day its adipose wallet which matters. But the question is how much is too much. Are they paid less. Is revenue earned from international matches, IPL, Airtel Chapions League insufficient to them. I would not believe it for a second that Dhoni uses Micromax, rides TVS star city, uses cello to write and uses bryl cream. Doing add shoots is not bad, but at the same time u have to concentrate on the very thing for which you have become worthy of doing these add shoots. Our very own Sachin sets the perfect precedent for this. He has done numerous add shoots but has never deviated from his goal and thats why he is held in such high regards. Dhoni should take some lesson from him. I think the selectors should harden their stance on it. Dhoni should be axed, at least for while to make him realise that no one’s place in Indian cricket team is taken for granted. Alas! our selectors could have themselves realised it.

  20. Since the Arundhati article was so small I was wading through some of your older entries … I found this entry … Although even if I admire Ganguly and his never say die attitude you have to admit that he is also guilty of region based politics .. You conveniently forgot about the Deep Dasguptas that Ganguly has favored … Also he destroyed the career of Shiv Sundar Das … Agreed to an extent that in today’s date he might not have a place in today’s opening slots where we have the likes of Gambhir and Vijay (forget about Sehwag’s slot , that’s permanent for him) … But then they too had a lot of chances before they started to shine … Das was promptly dropped after one bad series in West Indies during when Ganguly had a big say in selectorial matters … So its not exactly your “Bong” is a saint

  21. Bengalis are lazy..it is not a stereotype..they mostly sit on their ass and do nothing..Ganguly was just like that..

  22. I’M VERY HAPPY THAT GANGULY HASN’T BEEN SELECTED….. NOW I JUST WANNA LISTEN TO ALL THE “HOBE NA CHOLBE NA” AGAINST SRK BY REGIONALISTIC BENGALI RETARDS!!!!
    GREG CHAPPELL WAS MY FAVOURITE COACH BCOZ:-
    1)HE DROPPED GANGULY!
    2)HE SHOWED THE MIDDLE FINGER TO CALCUTTANS!
    HERE’S ANOTHER MIDDLE FINGER FROM ME TO ALL THOSE BENGALLIS AND CALCUTTANS AS A REMINDER:-
    m|m
    GANGULY IS GONE FOREVER, YOU BENGALI CRY-BABIES!!!
    C’MON BENGALIS, WHY R U GUYS SO QUIET?? BURN MY EFFIGIES, CALL BANDHS, LIKE YOU ALWAYS DO!!!!!!
    P.S.: ALL BENGALIS SHOULD BE THROWN OUT OF INDIA (SENT TO BANGLADESH MAYBE)!!!!

    • The comment just gives a glimpse of your guts dude. Creating a fake name for commenting and spreading hatred. If bengalis have never ever done anything for the country then try not to sing the National Anthem, coz that , my friend, was writte by a bengali too… 🙂

  23. Hey gregchappellfan, Don’t you know who is the player who was axed from the team on account of bad form (rightly so. His ongoing form was indeed horrible), went back to domestic cricket to fix it right, returned to international cricket in less than a year, and after that scored most runs for India in the Africa tour, 2nd highest runs in the England tour (averaging 55), highest runs in the home series against Africa and Pakistan (earning the man of the series in the process), and scoring 300+ runs in the last series against Australia at an average of 54, 1200+ runs in the ODI year, including a man of the series and 1000+ in tests? Can’t you see how Ganguly rubbed his a** on the face of Greg Chappell and Kiran More after his comeback? He didn’t require to show his middle-finger, his bat said it all, get that, dumbo?

  24. Arre dada itna gussa ni karne ka.me non bengoli bt lv bengal,my bengoli frnds,pujo n most imp saurav dada(n used to support kkr only for this reason) n im sure theres many more like me out there.

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