DUBAI // Sourav Ganguly's polemic career seemed headed for an inglorious ending. He had been ignored for the Irani Trophy match and the critics reacted with glee, writing their poisoned-pen obituaries. "Lord Snooty", who dared the traditionalist with his shirt-waving from the balcony of the revered Lord's, was going down without a swansong.
But then came a change of guard with the selection committee. A staunch Ganguly critic and the chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar passed the baton to Krishnamachari Srikkanth. The former opener decided to give the "Prince of Kolkata" one last sortie amid rumours that the Indian board were also keen to allow senior players - Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and the Test captain Anil Kumble - to come up and declare their retirement plans.
The opponents were the mighty Australians, a side Ganguly has successfully managed to rub the wrong way in the past. Steve Waugh, their former captain, used the "p" word to describe him, and the others were not too flattering in their description of India's most successful captain.Ganguly had managed to irk the domineering Aussies like no other. He beat them at their mind games in the 2001 series and smashed an incandescent century at Brisbane in 2003, which set the tone for a remarkable series as India held the all-conquering hosts to a 1-1 draw.
The Australians this time around are being helped in their preparations by Greg Chapell, the former Indian coach and Australian legend who triggered the start of bad times for Ganguly. Given the golden chance, Ganguly declared the series would be his farewell from cricket. "I am tired of being at the mercy of the selectors," Ganguly said. Not good enough to represent the Rest of India in the Irani Trophy, he made two crucial contributions in the first match at Bangalore and then blazed his 16th Test century at Mohali as India won by a record 320 runs.
Now Srikkanth hopes Ganguly can continue in the same vein and bring down the curtain on his career, which has produced more than 7,000 runs in Test matches and 11,363 in one-day internationals, with a flourish. "I am very happy that Ganguly is doing well," said Srikkanth. "We still have got two more matches to go and I am sure if he does well in those games, I will be very happy. "If he scores two more centuries, he can go out on a big high."