Ganguly back in IPL with Pune Warriors India

Kolkata: Ignored at this year`s IPL auctions, former India captain Sourav Ganguly made a dramatic return in the cash-rich league on Tuesday signing for Pune Warriors India in place of an injured Ashish Nehra.

"I was approached by them yesterday and I`ve confirmed about my availability to them. I am leaving for Mumbai today and the details will be announced there," Ganguly told reporters here today. Ganguly is however unlikely to feature in Pune Warriors` match against Mumbai Indians tomorrow.

Ganguly, who was captain of Kolkata Knight Riders for the first and third season was given a cold shoulder by Shah Rukh Khan co-owned franchise as well as nine others who didn`t bid for him during the auctions.

The Pune Warriors are in the midst of a disastrous campaign having lost six consecutive matches under Yuvraj Singh`s captaincy. With the batting looking depleted, the new franchise couldn`t have thought for a better replacement as Ganguly brings with him vast experience.

Confirming the development, Pune Warriors team director Abhijit Sarkar told PTI that roping in Ganguly was not a gamble and he would prove his worth with the former India captain being the "best cricketing brain" in the country.

"He is playing in IPL not for money but to prove a point.

He deserves a lot of respect, but not the way he has been treated (by Kolkata Knight Riders)… He is the best cricketing brain in the country. Taking Ganguly is not a gamble," Sarkar explained.

Sarkar said their side was plagued by a lot of injuries and they thought of Ganguly.

"At the start of the tournament, Angelo Mathews, the best allrounder, was ruled out. Australian T20 vice-captain Tim Paine, South African skipper Graeme Smith too are injured, while Ashish Nehra too was battling with injury. We waited for the Nehra`s fitness report that came yesterday."

"We have been in talks for last two three days. Our team think-tank felt that Sourav Ganguly is the best possible option available so we went for him. He has been a fighter and a mster of comebacks. We are very much confident that he will prove his worth."

Sarkar however said Ganguly would not be available for their next match against Mumbai Indians at Navi Mumbai tomorrow.

"We welcome him on board. He is joining the side (in Navi Mumbai) this evening and will train with the coach and support staff. I don`t think that he will be playing in our next match (against Mumbai Indians) tomorrow."

The May 19 clash between Pune Warriors and KKR will assume greater significance as Ganguly is a certainty for that particular match.

Asked about the tenure of Ganguly`s contract, Sarkar said, "We want to go step by step. Of course, Sourav is a part of Sahara India Pariwar and we will want this association to be a long term one. The contract will be assessed at the end of the year."

Incidentally, Ganguly has always shared a cordial relationship with Team Pune owner Subrata Roy. Speculations were rife that Warriors will pick him from auctions if KKR doesn`t bid for him.

But one learns that chief coach Geoff Marsh and assistant coach Praveen Amre were against the idea of roping in former India captain due to his strained relationship with Aussie coaches (Greg Chappell, John Buchanan, Dav Whatmore).

But having failed to deliver the goods with Warriors down in the dumps, they have now no option but to toe the management line.

The move to join Warriors definitely came as a bolt from the blue for the KKR management who have all this while tried to convince Ganguly to join the team as `Mentor`.

KKR CEO Venky Mysore tried to put up a brave front when the media sought his reaction on the topic.

"We wish him all the best. We hope that May 19th match against the Warriors will be an interesting one," Mysore stated.

Incidentally, Ganguly came to watch his former team, Kolkata Knight Riders, take on Kings XI at Eden Gardens in their previous match, though he refrained from joining team boss Shah Rukh Khan at the corporate box.

Reportedly, a member of the KKR support staff even went upto him to request him join the owners in the Corporate box which he politely refused.