It's fair to say that Sourav Ganguly was ignored and dumped by all franchises in the IPL (PTI file photo)
Age is a question of mind over matter, but it's a matter of concern when quite a few minds question the presence of age in a set-up largely defined by youth.
The IPL has a place for everyone. The greats believe it is a tournament largely defined by their presence, while youngsters believe this is their best chance to prove their worth to the world. So it's one happy joint family at the start of the season, only to become a daily Ekta Kapoor soap by the end of the tournament, with conspiring theories that do the rounds and become more pronounced when a team is losing.
The IPL's short history has produced quite a few such families in the past and sadly one man has always been a member of that house. Sometimes as head of the house and on occasions he was just another abandoned colleague who would play the role of the observer and absorber. Isolation is nothing new to Sourav Ganguly and much like how leadership comes naturally, seclusion and separation has embraced him.
Kolkata Knight Riders was a bitter experience for Ganguly. If the first year was attributed to teething problems, then in the next few years one of India's best captains would have to endure humiliation followed by an unceremonious exit. So unceremonious, that the franchises would maintain a dignified silence when his name was announced in the auction of 2011.
It's fair to say that Ganguly was ignored and dumped by all franchises. At a time when the IPL's economic disparity has devalued the presence and existence of some of the biggest names in Indian cricket, the treatment levelled at Ganguly, many would consider unacceptable. But the bitter truth being Ganguly was no more seen as an asset but as a liability. That's the business side of cricket today.
So after what Ganguly has gone through, is there really anything left to prove? Does he find himself on the Lord's balcony once again, eager to remove his shirt and wave it to all in his shot at redemption? Is it about that feeling of vindication and of proving himself right rather than proving others wrong?
Whatever be the case, a man uninvited to a party the first time will never be at home in the gathering and one just gets the feeling that yet again, his adopted home town Pune is in no mood to raise a team under Ganguly's captaincy. While their team owner Subrata Roy was quick to designate a mentor's role to Ganguly for the next season, Dada was as always oblivious of things. Why?
Ganguly the person is compassionate; Ganguly the cricketer is passionate but what about Ganguly the leader at 39? Is he a captain who is not letting go of the 'E' from the ego? Are we seeing the rigid and inflexible side of a man who is showing no logic in his decisions on and off the field? If Ganguly rested himself against Royal Challengers Bangalore to give a youngster a chance, then why is he denying him more chances? It seems that he is bent on contradicting himself.
The questions keep arising and sadly an Indian fan looks for real answers. Why doesn't an Indian cricketer leave the field gracefully? A legend like Ganguly wants to repeatedly remind himself of his credentials, even though the world takes a bow to his mere presence. The Indian fan rates him as the captain who taught India how to win, so why should Ganguly give anyone a chance to question his presence in a mere IPL tournament?
Ganguly has been a man of comebacks, but its time he reads between the lines. As a batsman in IPL 5 he has been all over the place and as a captain he was inspirational but failed to lead by example. More importantly, a young cricketer who looks up to Dada will now be forced to question his place in the IPL.
Yes, Yuvraj Singh's absence meant Pune Warriors India were in search of a leader. Ganguly was eyeing redemption, the opportunity was presented, but fortunes did not change and this only means the leader has to change and that is because cricket is about natural progression.
Ganguly has always been a trailblazer, leading by example. A man loved for his leadership, motivation and his will to rise in when the chips were down. A wonderful orator, Ganguly once told me that he never walked onto a ground trying to prove anything to anyone. Every time he walked onto a cricket field he tried to prove to himself he was good enough to get a Test hundred. It was during a two-hour-long chat with the former Indian captain in 2010, that I began to understand a striking feature about Ganguly - his ability to inspire. He spoke about his hundred on debut at Lord's and a smile couldn't help but creep across his face. I asked him if he would like to rewind to that phase and his prompt response was "even today I am ready to wear my pads for the country."
That's Ganguly for you. He wants to play and the child within him refuses to remind him that he is today a mentor and guru to millions of children across the country. They look up to their Dada and want to be like him. For that memory of Ganguly to remain the way it is, Dada has to draw the line, because he has crossed the line.
The greatness of a cricketer lies in his selfless, uncompromising and unconditional approach towards the sport. Sourav for all that he has given to Indian cricket, needs to understand that cricket is not about the past but the present and keeping in mind the future, IPL 5 should be his last as a player.
Dada has to take this decision. For a change, he needs to make a decision about his own exit before he falls victim to another well-orchestrated retirement plan that dumps him on to the side-lines. He will be missed as much as he is loved but Dada forever will remain the Dada of Indian cricket.