Time may be up for King of comebacks

This time around, even the king of comebacks may find it hard to make a return to the international stage. He has bounced back quite often so well in the past that obituary writers will be very careful. But the wise Sourav Ganguly, all of 36 years, will realise that the odds are severely stacked against staging another comeback.
It is hard to pick one comeback over the other because each is made of scintillating stuff. Back in 1996, he played his way into India’s cricket consciousness with two hundreds at Lord’s and Trent Bridge – four years after he was branded a lazy young man and on being branded a quota candidate on his inclusion on the team’s tour of England.
After scaling amazing heights as Team India captain on taking over at the peak of match-fixing controversy that shook cricket’s foundations, he got into an infamous scrap with coach Greg Chappell and ended up losing his place in the side, with unexpected time to introspect on his own batsmanship.
Gangly returned after nine months in the wilderness and infused a new vigour in Team India in South Africa with a knock of 83 in the practice game in Potchefstroom. And this after being hit by a bouncer. He followed it up with an unbeaten 51 in the first innings of the opening Test that India went on to win.
Then again, from that time he made that comeback, Ganguly will have known that his Test career was dangling on a slender thread. And that had he had to keep performing all the time in a game that could be called ‘living by the day’. And that the thread finally gave away after a series of scores that read 23, 4, 0, 16, 35 and 18 for a total of 96 runs in the last series in Sri Lanka.
And that string of failures against Muttiah Muralitharan is the most recent memory that selectors chose to remember. They seem to have forgotten that Ganguly had two ruddy good knocks of 87 each in the Ahmedabad and Kanpur Tests against South Africa earlier this year? And that second knock helped India set up a series-levelling victory on the dustbowl at Green Park Stadium.
You can argue that selectors have been unfair in choosing Ganguly as the only middle-order batsman to pay for India’s collective failures in Sri Lanka. Was he the only one who appeared to be slow on his feet, his eye-hand co-ordination letting him down? But it does appear that the present lot of selectors has made up its collective mind against keeping faith in him.
I wish the selectors have the decency to call him up and have a quiet word with him. But such niceties are not part of Indian cricket and it would be futile to expect the Chairman of Selectors Dilip Vengsarkar to ring him up to tell him that he was unlikely to add to his 109 Test caps and 6888 runs.
Ganguly romantics will have to concede – however reluctantly – that with the likes of Yuvraj Singh (who may perhaps be kicking himself for having missed out), Mohammed Kaif, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and S Badrinath waiting in the wings to take over from him, we may have seen the last of the king of comebacks in India colours.
Then again, will he finally throw in the towel? Or will he continue to battle on in a bid to stage another of those comebacks? Whatever his decision, you cannot take away from the fact that Ganguly has been easily the most colourful of the Golden Quartet of middle-order batsmen. What a fascinating tale his journey in Tests has been! Is there another unlikely chapter?