Sourav Ganguly, the enigmatic former India captain, the prolific ODI opener, and the current BCCI president turns 48 on Wednesday. With 11363 runs and 22 ODI hundreds to his name, Ganguly goes down as one of India's best opening batsmen that has ever been produced. Apart from his batting records, Ganguly is also hailed as one of the best captains of Indian Cricket team and is often credited for revolutionising the team in early 2000s. Under his leadership, India went on to beat Australia in Test series in 2001, beat England at Lord's to win 2002 Natwest Trophy, reached 2003 ODI World Cup final, drew against England in Test series in 2004, and even defeated Pakistan in a Test series in 2005.
Here are five decisions made by Sourav Ganguly as captain that changed Indian cricket forever:
Sending Laxman at No.3 in Kolkata in 2001 against Australia
Ganguly was always an instinctive captain. Laxman was the only Indian batsman who looked at ease against the Australian attack in the first innings of the famous Kolkata Test in 2001. India were asked to follow on as early as Day 3 and Ganguly decided to promote Laxman at No.3 in place of Rahul Dravid. The move worked wonders for both as both Dravid and Laxman batted through Day 4 with latter registering 281 – the then highest score by an Indian to set up an improbable win on Day 5 which was completed by a rampaging Harbhajan Singh. The win put an end to Australia's 16-match winning streak and India then went to win the final Test at Chennai to take the series 2-1.
Asking Sehwag to open
Virender Sehwag had batted in the middle order all his life. Even when he made his Test debut for India at Bloemfontein in South Africa, he had smashed a century batting at No.6. But Ganguly saw something that many couldn't. He asked Sehwag to open the batting for India as he believed the Delhi right-hander's batting would bring more results at the top of the order. The rest as they say is history. With an average close to 50 and two triple tons to his name, Sehwag became one of India's most successful Test openers and contributed to many Indian victories, especially overseas.
Convincing Dravid to don the gloves
Sourav Ganguly's India did not have the luxury of an MS Dhoni for the large part. For them finding a permanent wicket-keeper had become the longest-running headache. Ganguly decided to put an end to it by asking Rahul Dravid to keep wickets for the balance of the side. Reluctant Dravid, who was one of India's most reliable top-order batsmen then, had no choice but to obey his captain's commands. The move turned out to be a successful one as it allowed India to play an extra batsman during the period between 2002 and 2004. As it turned out, Dravid did not too badly as No.5 either. In fact, some of his best ODI innings came at that time.
Selecting Dhoni and later on promoting him to No.3 vs Pakistan
It cannot be a mere coincidence that Indian cricket's two most successful captains are born just a day apart. It would have been the perfect fairy tale had Ganguly was born on July 7th and Dhoni a day later instead of it being the other way around. But that doesn't change the fact that it was Ganguly, who decided to try out Dhoni after just one successful series for India A in Kenya. "That's my job, isn't it? That's every captain's job to pick and make the best team possible," Ganguly told Mayank Agarwal on the episode of 'Open Nets with Mayank' answering a fan's query it was true that Ganguly had indeed decided to pick out of nowhere.
But Ganguly didn't stop there. After a disastrous first few outings, questions were raised about Dhoni's position in the Indian side. But Ganguly knew his potential and he decided to promote Dhoni to bat at No.3 in an ODI against Pakistan in Vizag in 2005. Dhoni smashed 148 and since then never looked back.
Backing of young talent and making the team believe they can win overseas
The likes of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, MS Dhoni – all blossomed under Ganguly's captaincy. It was the former India opener who built the Indian side from the rut of the 2000 match-fixing scandals and made them believe they can win anywhere in the world. Ganguly's overseas record of 11 away wins in 28 Tests – the second-best after Virat Kohli – speaks for itself.