Strength, courage and mastery. It just feels good to have these traits. Sourav Ganguly has all of these. But, all these characters have to be advertised in an emotional lexicon in order to gain people’s support. Pepsi ad of Ganguly about his possible comeback did exactly that. The legal drama turned out to be a blessing for the Rajkumar of Kolkata.
Ganguly and Chappell
If you have tracked Sourav Ganguly through magazines and blogs, you must know that the man was not a gym freak. Yes, he hit some lusty blows, especially in Taunton, but that was pure muscle memory, rather than push-ups driven strength. Dada did not need them actually. But, for a brief period, his reluctance threatened his career. In a way, Dada was himself to blame for it.
Chappell backstabbed Dada
Impressed by Greg Chappell’s technical know-how during the Australian tour of 2003-04, Ganguly pushed him for being the coach of the Indian team. In May 2005, Chappell was appointed as Coach. But, soon he turned his back on Sourav. Chappell did not like the way Ganguly was managing stuff. But, unlike John Wright, Chappell did not believe in deliberations.
He sent an email to Ranbir Mahindra, the then BCCI President, terming Ganguly unfit for international matches. Soon, the scuffle resulted in Ganguly being removed from the captaincy. In the next few months, Rahul Dravid was appointed as Captain of both limited overs and Test Teams. By the end of January 2006, Ganguly was dropped from the team as a player as well.
Ganguly and Pepsi in trouble
The writing on the Wall was clear. Selectors and Coach had conveyed to Ganguly that ‘The Wall’ was the future. The Wall in fact started to eat into Ganguly’s market share as well. Though Ganguly was contracted to advertise for Pepsi till 2007, Pepsi did not waste a moment before joining the bandwagon of Rahul Dravid. But Pepsi’s troubles were just about to begin, not because of the Great Rahul Dravid of course.
In 2006, the Center for Science and the Environment found out that Pepsi did not even give a dime about Indians’ health. Pepsi drink contained 24 times more pesticides than one homo sapien could safely drink. Pepsi was on the verge of being banned. Their multiple appeals were rejected, their data were not considered terrible. Few states had already started tightening noose by imposing partial bans.
Only Ganguly could do the trick
But people working for Pepsi India were fans of Dada’s miraculous rise in the post-match fixing era. With his captaincy, Dada went for a make-or-break approach. The man did not even care for Steve Waugh, the most respected man of SENA countries. He chose toss timing according to his own comforts. Ganguly was ready to accept a test defeat, rather than settle for a draw, something which Graeme Smith replicated while playing against Ponting’s Australian.
But Pepsi employees knew that aggression won’t work. So, Pepsi told Ganguly to stoke emotions by telling people that he would come back. In other words, they were telling the Bengal Tiger to be meek. Dada refused. But, since he was contracted to advertise for the company by the end of 2007, Company forced him to do it. Dada did appear in an ad starting with, “I am Sourav Ganguly. I hope you have not forgotten me”
Ad turned the tides in his favor
The ad did the magic. When Ganguly was first dropped, protests all-across the country had kicked off, but selectors had refused to take him back. The ad restarted a sympathy wave in favor of Ganguly. On the other hand, the initial success of Greg Chappell’s coaching had started to die down. Why wouldn’t it? Its foundation was extremely brittle.
The Indian team was facing criticism from all across the board, including Parliament. Chappell made matters worse by stating that Indian MPs are simply doing their job. It showed his indifferent attitude towards Indians’ emotions. And then came a disastrous tour of South Africa. Batting, the India’s strength became its very weakness. Pollock, Ntini, Steyn and Nail ran through the Indian batting line-ups, not once, not twice, but throughout the whole tour.
Dada’s stupendous comeback
At home, the call for Dada’s recall was growing stronger. Selectors gave in and Dada went to South Africa. He made a steady comeback by scoring a half-century. India lost but Dada’s fans were a little relieved. The World Cup was around the corner and now it was clear that the team won’t go without Ganguly. But Dada needed match practice. Once criticized by Chappell for his fitness, Dada went on to play a slew of series, strengthening his comeback. Even in the disastrous world cup campaign, Dada was a shining light for India.
Post world cup changes meant that Chappell was going back to Australia, while Ganguly went on to play for 18 more months. During these years, he saw Australia’s decline and fittingly played his last match against Australia in Nagpur.
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