Sourav Ganguly revealed that he had received a sturdy phone call from Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf during the Pakistan tour in 2004. It had left Ganguly anxious and the former India skipper described it scarier than facing Wasim Akram. "Facing Wasim Akram’s deadly in-cutter was less scary!" writes the former India captain in his forthcoming autobiography, 'A Century Is Not Enough'.
Ganguly wanted to celebrate the ODI series victory which India clinched by 3-2 and the 'Prince of Kolkata' wanted to celebrate the win in style. He had escaped the Lahore’s swish Pearl Continental Hotel, where Indian team were accommodated.
"Well past midnight, I discovered that my friends were making plans to visit the iconic Food Street for kebabs and tandoori dishes. The area is known as Gawalmandi," says Ganguly in the book co-written with journalist Gautam Bhattacharya.
"I didn’t inform our security officer as I knew he would have stopped me. I had only told our team manager Ratnakar Shetty. I slipped through the backdoor with a cap which covered half my face… I knew it was breaking the rules, but I felt I had to get away from the rifles and tanks,” he writes.
He also tried to hide his identity when recognized by a fan. "Arey aap Sourav Ganguly ho na?” someone asked excitedly. I said no in a slightly modulated voice. He shook his head and said, ‘I thought as much. Par aap bilkul Sourav jaise dikhte ho.’”
Ganguly was then spotted by renowned journalist Rajdeep Sardesai. As expected, it didn't go well for the then India skipper. "We were about to finish our dinner when someone finally called my bluff. A few yards from where we sat was journalist Rajdeep Sardesai. The moment Rajdeep spotted me, he started shouting, Sourav, Sourav. I knew I was in trouble.”
Soon chaos erupted. "People started coming in from all directions and I got gheraoed-…While I tried to pay the bill and escape, the shopkeeper refused to accept payment. He kept on saying, ‘Bahut achcha. We need someone as aggressive as you to lead Pakistan’.”
He revealed that their car was followed by a bike which they feared as a threat. "While we were making our way back to the hotel a speeding motorbike chased our car. The biker was asking me to roll down the window. My co-passengers kept telling me not to as they feared he might have a bomb. I, however, did not see any threat and obliged. He stretched out his hand and echoed the shopkeeper in Food Street, ‘I am a big fan of yours. Pakistan needs a leader like you.’ The series loss had hurt the average supporter big time.”
Ganguly arrived at the hotel safely. But the news had reached Musharraf. That’s why he made the phone call. Writes Ganguly, "President Musharraf was polite but firm. He said, ‘Next time you want to go out please inform the security and we will have an entourage with you. But please don’t indulge in adventures’.”