|Sourav Ganguli File Photo|
KOLKATA: Fifteen years is a long time in the life of a sportsperson, but for Sourav Ganguly, memories of Lord’s are still fresh in his mind. It was on June 22, 1996, that Sourav became the first Indian cricketer to hit a century on Test debut at the ‘Mecca’ of cricket. He remains the only one to do so.
“It’s been a long time, but those are very happy memories,” says Sourav, reminicising about the English summer that heralded the dawn of a new era in Indian cricket.
Chasing England’s first-innings tally of 344, Sourav, who came in to bat at 25 for one, stood firm at one end even as India lost the wickets of Nayan Mongia (24), Sachin Tendulkar (31), Mohammad Azharuddin (16) and Ajay Jadeja (10) before he found an able ally in another debutant, Rahul Dravid.
The duo shared a 94-run partnership for the sixth wicket to help India gain a first innings lead of 85. Sourav, who was unbeaten on 26 on Day 2 (June 21), went on to make a flawless 131, but Dravid was unlucky to miss his century by just five runs.
“It was easily the best moment of my career. A century on debut at Lord’s … it doesn’t get bigger than this,” Sourav told TOI. “Looking back, I feel it was destiny at work,” he adds.
To say that he was under pressure would be an understatement. Included as the fifth pacer, who could also bat, Sourav was under no illusion that it was going to be a make-or-break series for him. Not picked for the first two ODIs, Sourav made a splendid 46 on a seaming Old Trafford wicket in the final match. Yet, he was ignored for the first Test at Edgbaston that India went on to lose by eight wickets.
A twist of fate paved the way for Sourav’s Test debut. His room partner on the tour, Navjot Singh Sidhu, had staged a walk-out from the team after a row with skipper Azharuddin. “I knew after the Derbyshire game that I would get my chance and was determined to grab it,” says Sourav. Sourav admits to being a tad nervous when handed over the India cap on June 20, but with Azhar choosing to field first after winning the toss, there was time for the two Indian debutants to settle down.
“Look, it was a dream come true for me to pull on the India cap. My first day in Test cricket was a fruitful one as I picked up two wickets ( Nasser Hussain and Graeme Hick). It gave me added confidence,” says Sourav, who later batted as if he was born to play Test cricket.