In 2016, when Mohun Bagan was playing Bhawanipore in the CAB Super League final at the Eden Gardens, with pink ball and under lights, Sourav Ganguly, standing at BC Roy Club House, struck a poignant pose. It was a pose that told a story of a dream, vision and planning for the future.
I made my way to the ground in the lunchtime to talk to Aakash Chopra, who was one of the commentators for the game, but the pose was enough to catch me dead on my tracks. Ganguly, meanwhile, came out of the balcony to meet curator Sujan Mukherjee on the sidelines before being joined by Wriddhiman Saha for a brief chat. For someone, who grew up idolising the batch of Ganguly, Sachin and Dravid, it was an arresting sight for me but I decided to hold up and return to the comforts of the press box. Little did I know it was one of the decisions I would regret later.
Notwithstanding which side of the debate you stand on, we all tend to agree that when Ganguly immerses himself in certain things, he knows the end game. He knows what he is up to and how to get that done. We had seen him finding his own way when it comes to backing certain players during his captaincy tenure, we are now seeing him doing the thing all over again as the BCCI president and that one moment of satisfaction at the BC Roy Club House was enough to indicate what the Dada of Indian cricket had in mind for Bengal cricket. When he talked about Bengal’s Vision 2020, he was not laying out plain speeches rather was ready to walk the talk. And boy did he do that with some aplomb.
All these thoughts crossed my mind straight away when Arun Lal, a proud and mighty figure of Bengal cricket, flashed a beaming smile to the camera after the team reached the final, beating an inspired Karnataka in the semis. Nevermind the result in the final, Bengal had already achieved its dream, fulfilled its vision and it was only fair that the Cricket Association of Bengal inaugurated its state-of-the-art facility on the day they lifted the runners-up title in Rajkot, something they could only dream of six years ago.
Ganguly, who firmly retired from the sport after 2012 IPL, didn’t see the dream from the comforts of his Behala Palace rather he took the charge as batting coach of the ambitious project and to help him out was then Bengal coach Ashok Malhotra, Goutam Shome and the then Bengal Under-25 coach Joydeep Mukherjee. Waqar Younis and Muttiah Muralitharan were appointed on Ganguly’s recommendation while former Bengal pacer Ranadeb Bose was appointed Younis’ deputy. Later VVS Laxman came on board and turned the fortune of the academy who played at the venue that Laxman knows inside out. The plans laid out and players were picked on merit as well as eye-test.
The recently-concluded season is the proper documentation of Bengal’s fine and glorified pace battery, which emerged triumphant to reach the final, but it was never going to happen without Vision 2020. As Ranadeb Bose told ESPN Cricinfo, the likes of Mukesh Kumar could have lost in the test of time had it not been the specified talent hunt programme all those years ago. Ishan Porel and Akash Deep shone brighter this season, spinner Shahbaz Ahmed made himself more valuable in the knockouts than he ever was and the team could reach the buoyant point of lifting the trophy. Of course, now, it has been shattered but who can now question the process and surely, the progress.
In the similar line, Vidarbha had laid out the process of how to progress three years ago - their senior team won the title twice consecutively, U-19 team won once and the next year reached the final, their U-23 side won the Col. CK Nayudu Trophy this year. They did it because they had the singular vision of Shashank Manohar in mind and the personals who dedicated their time and energy to make it come true. Saurashtra became fourth-time lucky because they never backed away and trusted their team to deliver at some point in time. The same set of players were kept in the fray and the team was fuelled by the ambition of Jaydev Unadkat to achieve what has been a case of bloody-mindedness.
Now, Bengal have just hit the right notes, the timing of it is fantastic and the key will now be to be persistent. It will ensure the loss in the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy final won’t end up as a one-time thing rather a promise for a bountiful future.