Few can forget Sourav Ganguly taking his shirt off and twirling it over his head at the Lord's balcony after India pulled off an improbable win in the Natwest Trophy final in 2002. 

The former India captain, affectionately known as 'Dada', instilled a much-needed aggression in the 'Men in Blue' and rekindled their hunger to win. He is a man who has lived in the moment and stood firm by his decisions, and on his 46th birthday, My Nation takes a walk down the memory lane and relive his greatest innings!

A left-handed batsman of the greatest quality and a handy right-arm medium pacer, Ganguly is most remembered for extricating Indian cricket out of the mire of the betting scandal at the start of the millennium.  

The Prince of Kolkata announced his arrival in Tests in style at the 'Mecca' of cricket — Lord's — as he scored a century on debut. Ganguly would go on to become the third highest run-scorer for India with 18,575 international runs. He is the 12th highest run-scorer of all time in the history of international cricket. He is the only ODI player to have won four consecutive Man of the Match awards. Notably, his average never dipped below 40 in Test cricket. Here are some of his top innings:

131 vs England, Lord’s, 20-24 June, 1996

His most memorable innings remain the one he played on Test debut at Lord’s. The game, which is now famously remembered as the one that saw the start of the careers of two of India’s best batsmen – Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. The match saw the elegance of the then 24-year-old, as he carved the English attack comprising Chris Lewis, Dominic Cork and Allan Mullally to all corners of the ground. Studded with 20 fours, Ganguly’s knock helped India overtake England in the first innings. The match ended up being a draw. However, one thing was clear — the Royal Bengal Tiger had arrived!

183 vs Sri Lanka, Taunton, World Cup, 26 May, 1999

Three years after his debut, Ganguly emerged as the linchpin of Indian batting order. In a league game against Sri Lanka, the two men who made their debuts together three years back in the same country were in for a special partnership. Ganguly and Dravid registered impeccable hundreds and shared a 318-run partnership for the second wicket, which was the then the highest partnership for any wicket in the history of ODI cricket. His innings contained 17 fours and seven sixes.

141* vs South Africa, Nairobi, ICC Knockout Tournament, 13 October, 2000

After winning the toss and batting first, the then Indian captain led from the front by scoring a magnificent century, opening the innings, and guided India to a challenging total of 295/6 from their 50 overs. His unbeaten knock of 141 was studded with 11 fours and six sixes and he tore apart an attack that was made up of Shaun Pollock, Allan Donald, Lance Klusener and Nicky Boje. The captain was helped by Dravid (who else?) yet again, and by Yuvraj Singh.

117 vs New Zealand, Nairobi, ICC Knockout Tournament final, 15 October, 2000 

Opening the innings, Ganguly scored his second century on the trot, making 117 runs from 130 balls with nine fours and four sixes, with some help from his good mate, Sachin Tendulkar, who contributed 69 runs. India posted a competitive total of 264/6 in their 50 overs.

60 vs England at Lord’s, Natwest Trophy final, 13 July, 2002

When Ganguly opened the Indian innings with Virender Sehwag, it was the right-handed basher from Delhi who was expected to give India a brisk start to have any chance of chasing the mammoth 300-plus English total. The skipper's 43-ball 60 contained 10 fours and a six and laid the perfect platform for the middle order to capitalise upon, after putting up 103 runs for the first wicket inside 15 overs. With Yuvraj and Mohammad Kaif pulling off an improbable-looking run chase and 'Dada' celebrating by taking his shirt off, this match remains etched in memory.

128 vs England, Headingley, 22-26 August, 2002

India hadn’t won a Test in England for 16 long years, and then found themselves 0-1 down in the four-match series. What followed next was a spectacular show by the holy trinity of Indian cricket — Dravid, Tendulkar and the captain, Ganguly, who hit patient, yet aggressive centuries to break the spirits of the English bowlers. Batting first after winning the toss, India put on an absolute run fest, plundering the English bowlers for two-and-a-half days, and finishing their first innings at 628/8 declared. A 249-run partnership ensued between Ganguly and Tendulkar, during which the Kolkata-born cricketer scored 128 to further demoralise the English attack that consisted the likes of Darren Gough, Andrew Caddick, Andrew Flintoff and Ashley Giles.

111 vs Kenya, Durban, World Cup semi-final, 20, March 2003

Coming in to bat at No 3 after a solid start by Sehwag and Tendulkar, Ganguly took the Kenyan bowlers on, scoring a brilliant knock of 111 off 114 balls with five fours and five sixes. This helped India post a respectable 270/4 in their 50 overs — a score that proved to be too much for the opposition in the end.

51 vs South Africa, Johannesburg, 15-18 December, 2006

Before 2006, India had never won a Test on South African soil. However, the Royal Bengal Tiger was ready to roar again! In swinging and seaming conditions, and against an attack comprising Dale Steyn, Pollock, Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel, Ganguly played one of the best knocks of his career. He had walked out to bat at No 5 when India were 110/4, and impressed one and all. Significantly, it was a game in which he was making a comeback. His knock of 51 not out might appear to be an ordinary score, but in the context of the game, this score was priceless.

87 vs South Africa, Kanpur, 11-13 April, 2008

In reply to South Africa’s 265, India registered 325 in their first innings, largely on the back of a 87-run knock by former skipper Ganguly, who batted at No 5, and Laxman’s 50. On a surface that was spinning right from Day 1, to bat for over three hours was no easy task. The Proteas were bundled out for 121 in their second innings, and India chased down the 62-run target with nine wickets in hand. Ganguly was adjudged the Man of the Match.

102 vs Australia, Mohali, 17-21 October, 2008

Even in his last international series, Ganguly wasn’t ready to mellow down. Rather, he was recharged and ready to take on one of the toughest teams to play international cricket. In the second Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2008 held at Mohali, India ran riot and defeated the Australians by a massive margin of 320 runs. In the first innings, Ganguly scored what proved to be his last century in international cricket, when he made 102 runs off 225 balls with eight fours. Riding on the veteran’s hundred, Tendulkar’s 88 and Gautam Gambhir’s 67, India posted 469 runs in their first innings, and a five-wicket-haul by Amit Mishra helped to bundle Australia out for 268.