First things first - this isn’t a piece about Sourav Ganguly the cricketer. Loads have been written about him in the past and loads will surely follow if he ever takes up the reins of Indian cricket as coach. Rather, this is about Sourav the Kolkatan, a dear friend and a true transnational icon. He is Kolkata’s single biggest box office globally, made possible because he has achieved the best of what he has in the two most hostile media environments in the world, England and Australia. He is revered in England and admired in Australia. So much so that the MCC invites him to ring the bell during a Lord’s Test match and he continues to get mobbed in the streets of Melbourne - something that happened as recently as March 2015 during the Cricket World Cup in Australia-New Zealand. Sourav, more than any other cricketer, is a story, a multi-layered one with many shades to it. That constitutes his real appeal and perhaps makes it universal.
As he turns 43 today, I happened to meet him at his house in Behala. We had planned the meeting and I had expected a quiet morning a home where we could chat over a slice of cake. Hey, what was I thinking! Here’s Sourav Ganguly, prince of Kolkata, the all time Bengali love affair! There were a 100 cameras and close to 500 fans as I made my way into the narrow bylane of Behala, now famous worldwide because of our dear Dada. Each of his fans present managed to get a glimpse of their hero, the more lucky ones got themselves clicked with him and all had a slice of cake to nibble. Sourav, in a rush to attend an Atletico-de-Kolkata (of which he is co-owner) press conference, looked dapper in jacket and shirt and was all smiles despite being harangued for photographs and autographs. He is used to the limelight and his conduct made it amply evident.
Most importantly, Sourav is a dear colleague at India Today Television. In fact he pre-dates me in the channel by a few years and is in many ways an insider. A top notch commentator and a personal favourite, there is much to learn from his analysis of the game. Never one to shy away from controversy, objective yet pertinent, rational yet constructively critical, Sourav has brought a fresh way to commentary. He isn’t a jester like Navjot Sidhu nor an over patriotic nationalist like Michael Vaughn. He is cricket commentary’s voice of reason, a voice that is already much respected and appreciated globally. But as I said at the start of this piece, for everyone at India Today he is our very dear “Dada”.
He can be barraged for tickets, we all did so during the World Cup Down Under, he can be asked to help us with shows at weird hours and more importantly is one who can be approached for anything under the sun. With Sourav you do not need to hesitate for he will ensure you are at ease. A man whose life is a real management lesson for the best grads across the world, he has so far stayed away from writing his life story. May be that is something we can push him to do in his 44th year.
For the moment though, a very happy birthday.