Burden off, Eden savoured a Ganguly moment

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Kolkata, Dec 1 (UNI) Completing a ton at his home ground is an incredible feeling more so when it's after a decade's wait in international cricket.

Ganguly reached his 100, stealing a single of Danish Kaneria, punched the air and stood with his helmet and bat raised. What a relief! His first century at Eden and first against Pakistan too after 98 tests, plundering over 5000 runs and 13 centuries around the world.

The 60,000 strong stadium rose and clapped in unison.

Ganguly said after the day's play, ''This is my highest at Eden Gardens. So I think it is also my best performance here. It feels nice to score a hundred anywhere and scoring it in my home ground makes it even more special.'' ''As an international cricketer you always have expectations.

But this century will definitely bring a sigh of relief with it.

If I had to end my career without a century here it would have been very disappointing. A burden off the chest today,'' he added.

It was the burden of plundering runs all around the world and coming up a cropper on his home ground. It was the burden of the love of his fans who stood to applaud his maiden hundred here, that he repaid today.

Ganguly raced to 91 with a boundary and thereafter takes three singles and then pulls Kaneria to reach 98. Another single off Kaneria takes him to 99 and a push to long off completes the historical moment. He was gone for 102 caught Tanvir of Salman Butt, but his date with history was sealed. His innings had 14 boundaries off 156 balls.

In an interview in the official souvenir of Cricket Association of Bengal, Sourav Ganguly said, ''Playing in Eden is always different. We cricketers can't describe the exact feeling.'' ''But its incomparable to anything else. I was in Eden since I was a boy of 4 years. Afterwards, my debut in first class cricket was in Ranji final. And there was also the Eden. And so on. So it's a different feeling all together,'' he added.

With just 292 runs from 12 innings at an average of 24.33, and no more than just a single half-century to his credit, Ganguly's record at the Eden was not very inspiring and more so considering that he is a local boy.

Add to the fact his last two scores here were a pair of forgettable 12, against Pakistan in March 2005, you know what the odds are. Playing his 98th Test it was almost his last chance to redeem himself in one of his loved grounds and give back to the fans they have longed for all this time.

The 'Prince of Calcutta' did not disappoint. Ganguly raced to his 30th test fifty and his fourth one against Paksitan, in the eleven times he played them, off just 72 balls as he slashed Sami to the fence to reach 51. At lunch he was three short of another personal milestone of overshadowed his previous best of 65 against Australia in 1997-98. He looked to be in fine form on 62 not out with nine boundaries under his belt off 92 balls.

Immediately after lunch he cut Shoaib Akhtar to reach 67 from 62. A personal devil conquered, he now set his eyes on the ton.

Howeevr, skipper Anil Kumble had faith in him, ''I don't think it's a good idea to judge a player by his performance at a particular ground and then say he is unsuccessful. Sourav is a very successful player.'' Kumble added, ''Take the Ferozeshah Kotla match. He was very successful with the bat and ball. Here too, Sourav will definitely get a bowl. We all expect him to play a big role every time he gets out in the middle.'' Incidentally his best at Eden gardens is just 65. Ganguly knows he's worth much more and will surely be bucking up for himself, for he is a fighter to the core and the man with maximum phoenix acts in Indian cricket.

There have been numerous times when Ganguly has been considered finished and left out in the cold and he has worked his way back.

This is one such occasion. A Ganguly-moment at Eden Gardens! UNI

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