When Sourav Ganguly decided to make his IPL comeback with the Pune Warriors India, I had written an open letter to the former Indian captain questioning his decision. In return, I got many responses from his fans who claimed to be a greater fan of Ganguly than I and were, therefore, extremely happy to see him back on the ground. For them, that's all that mattered.
In his first game against the Deccan Chargers on May 10, a fan managed to enter the field at the Uppal Stadium in Hyderabad and fell at Ganguly's feet in salutation. The former Kolkata Knight Riders skipper obliged with a run-a-ball unbeaten 32 as the Warriors beat the Chargers.
By no measure did the knock qualify as a cracking comeback innings, but it was an emotional one. He did hit a couple of vintage strokes and showed that his ability to dance down the track and hoick the spinners is something that he could do even in his sleep.
His second game was again against the same team with the Chargers traveling to the DY Patil Stadium. Ganguly played five deliveries and scored a duck.
His third game was supposed to be the 'real' one to watch out for as Pune took on the Kolkata Knight Riders. Not only were Pune playing for pride, but a win on Thursday would have set up a dramatic finish in the race to the last four for Kolkata. None of that happened. Ganguly made 18 from 22 balls before playing a nothing shot to Shakib Al Hasan that sent the ball straight to Yusuf Pathan.
Fifty runs in three innings is what Ganguly has managed and that by no measure can qualify as a comeback. It is sad to see the Prince of Kolkata fail. The man who taught India to earn her stripes, now looks like a pale shadow of his past. He may be determined to prove himself, but the fact that he had not picked up a bat in five months, as he himself has admitted, showed.
On Thursday, he showed one glimpse of the batsman he once was as he yet again danced down the track to Iqbal Abdulla and sent him sailing over long on. Years ago that shot would have been accompanied by a smile on his face indicating to his partner at the non-striker's end how he could almost do that ball after ball. It gave you the feeling that the smile on his face resonated in his body language. But on Thursday and in fact, right through the three games in the IPL, the shot seems like a gasp from a diver in mid sea trying to prove his lungs still work. And sadly, that's where the comeback ends.
The enduring picture of a relentless Ganguly going after the bowlers, punctuating the off-side with his trademark strokes and what was expected of him unfortunately remains unfulfilled.
Pune's last game is against Delhi, who are languishing at the bottom of the table. One doesn't even know if Ganguly will play that game or will the youngsters on the bench get a chance to play a match. Whatever happens, I would want to forget Ganguly's role in this IPL as a bad dream. There are too many happy memories and Ganguly moments to remember and cherish. I don't need another comeback to be reminded of those.