15 YEARS LATER
A TRIBUTE TO GANGULY AND DRAVID ON THEIR TEST DEBUT ANNIVERSARY
On 20th June 1996, exactly 15 before, began the second test match between India and England at the Home of Cricket, The Lords Stadium. Two Indian players made their debut in that match, both young 23-year olds – Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, and both could not be more in contrast. While for Ganguly it was a second chance to prove himself after a disastrous Australian tour in 1993, for old Dravid it was his first ever international appearance. And it was this Test match that would change the face of Indian cricket forever.
15 years, almost 200 test matches and a whopping 20,000 runs later, most Indian fans still remember and revere these two legends of the game. Both became captains of the national team, led the team to some fantastic victories and some disheartening defeats, amassed numerous runs and records and etched their names on Indian cricket history with permanent ink. Ganguly has now retired with 7212 runs in 113 Tests with 16 centuries and a top score of 239 against Pakistan while Dravid plays only Tests now and has 12063 runs in 155 matches with 31 centuries and a top score of 270 again versus Pakistan. A lot has changed, but not the fact that it was this match that gave India the foundation to be the best Test team in the World.
Going back to the Lords Test, England were leading the series and India had chosen to field were batting second in reply to England’s 344 aided by a century by Russel. When both openers fell cheaply, a gangly Ganguly walked in at No 3, and after another 3 wickets, was joined by Rahul Dravid at No 7. Both debutants had played junior cricket with each other before and were batting now to bail India out of trouble. By the time the innings were over, Ganguly had scored a century on Test debut, got his name on the Lords Honor Board and given India a lead, while Dravid had made a fluid 95 and was unlucky to miss out on a landmark ton. Ultimately the Test was drawn and Russel was chosen as the Man of the Match. (Though I feel that this was unfair considering Ganguly too had hit a century, on debut, as well as taken 3 wickets)
15 years later why this match is still considered so important is because two young players made their debut in the highest form of Cricket on English soil making significant contributions and went on making significant contributions consistently, cementing their place in all formats of the game. These two then, along with Sachin Tendulkar, went on to form the pillar of Indian cricket which held t in place for over a decade. They toured all the cricket-playing nations, scored big runs and bigger victories and hardly missed a game due to injury or rest. They also formed the bulwark of Indian leadership with Ganguly as captain and Dravid as his deputy forming one of the most successful combinations in cricket. Today whatever the Indian cricket team is, it is due in large parts to these two men who made their Test debut on this day 15 years back, a fact acknowledged by everyone including World Cup winning captain MS Dhoni.
So this is my tribute to Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid – the Legends of Indian cricket.