The End of Dadaism
Leave it to Sourav Ganguly to go out in a perplexing blaze of nothingness, with a first-ball duck at Nagpur, just as he entered with a perplexing blaze of brilliance, with an opening-innings century at Lords nearly a dozen years ago. Always a bit of drama with Sourav. Okay, more than a bit.
Unless you are a Bengali — in which case chauvinism blinds you no less in matters of cricket than in any other aspect of life — Ganguly made life just a little uncomfortable for his would-be admirers. You wanted to give him your unconditional support; but somehow, he never let you. You couldn't help but admire his ballsy incisiveness as India's captain, his often magnificent stroke play (as Rahul Dravid famously said, "On the off-side, there's God, then there's Ganguly."), and his uncommonly articulate post-match interviews. And yet his play never ceased to be infuriatingly selfish, sloppy, and cynical. I have not looked at the statistics, so this is entirely impressionistic, but I think one would be hard-pressed to name a player who got more of his teammates run-out unnecessarily, hit more pointless centuries in losing causes and inevitably drawn tests, or was dismissed so often within a ball after reaching his personal milestone du jour.
His nickname was "Dada", from the Bengali for "older brother". Yet the derivation could just as easily come from the contrarian art movement of the early twentieth century, given the maddening ambiguity of his prolific, yet profligate career.
My voice was among those who called for his retirement during the dark days of 2005. I was also among those delighted with the success of his 2006-2008 comeback. It would have been wonderful to have seen him go out as he'd come in, with a blaze of glory. But his golden duck coda seemed well-deserved instant-karma for a cricketer who so often seemed to play only for himself.