On the eve of his teams home game against Royal Challengers Bangalore,amidst reports that he would step down as captain of Pune Warriors,Sourav Ganguly strode to the makeshift press conference room with a sense of defiance.
I am still the captain,for the whole season. Those are just reports, he said,when asked the inevitable question on Thursday.
But this was at odds with what Pune team owner Subrata Roy had said in a TV interview only a few hours before. Sourav wants to give youngsters a chance in the last games, he had said. He will be the mentor next season. We pushed him to play in IPL 5.
As the sun set over the Sahara Stadium the next day,the team owners word seemed to have prevailed over that of the captain for the whole season. At the toss,the turquoise-clad figure who looked up at the descending coin was 22-year-old Australian all-rounder,Steven Smith.
Leading the Sydney Sixers to the Big Bash Twenty20 title back home had made him one of the leading candidates to take over from Ganguly,especially with Australias Test and ODI skipper Michael Clarke having retired from international T20s. After winning the toss,Smith revealed that Ganguly had rested himself.
On Thursday,during the pre-match press conference,Ganguly however didnt gloss over his performances.
It has been patchy. I have played well at times,I havent played well at times,thats the way T20 format is, he said. There are quite a few players who havent played well,but Sourav Ganguly gets criticised more than the others,that has been the trend for the last 15 years.
But in his last three matches,Gangulys stodgy batting wasnt just leaving a dent on his individual record,but seemed to have a visible impact on Punes result as well. At home to Mumbai Indians,he had scored 16 off 24 balls as Pune lost by one run. Away at Kolkata,he made 36 from 35 balls,as Pune fell narrowly short in another chase,losing by seven runs this time.
Against Rajasthan Royals at home,he opened the batting and scored 14 off 18 balls Ganguly and Clarke put on 30 from 34 balls,with field restrictions in place. Having posted only 125,Pune slid to a seventh straight defeat. The memory of Gangulys wild celebration of Kevin Pietersens wicket at Ferozeshah Kotla was receding quicker than his hairline.
By now,there was no chance of a playoff slot anymore,and the management had two choices. They could have opted to let Ganguly play on and complete his IPL swansong,since Pune had nothing left to gain anymore,or they could leave him out and hope that change at the top would bring a late change in fortunes.
In the end,they opted for the latter,course. It is hard to see a 40-year-old Ganguly taking the field next season. He could yet enjoy a final outing,however,when Kolkata Knight Riders come calling on May 19.