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Regular guy & a leader of men

cricket Updated: Dec 25, 2007 00:01 IST
Kadambari Murali
Kadambari Murali
Hindustan Times
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Even in his silence, there was drama, a sense of hushed expectancy, the kind you get just before a much-anticipated show on opening night.

Sourav Ganguly, lord of all he surveyed yet again, a year after he single-handedly scripted one of the most sensational comeback stories in modern sport, flashed a mock grin at someone, half-raised a hand in greeting to someone else, smilingly nodded as a third person welcomed him and continued to wait without speaking for the fidgeting to settle.

At 10.15 am local time on Boxing Day, Ganguly will be handed a silver salver that will commemorate his 100th Test. Asked how special the event would be, Ganguly grinned again. He then schooled his features into a more thoughtful expression and pronounced philosophically, "I think it will be more a satisfying feeling than anything else."

For the next half-an-hour or so, Ganguly, he who is no longer captain, talked like the leader he once was.

Sample these statements.

On India's prospects: "We've beaten everyone overseas over the last six years or so, most of the boys in this team know what it takes to do that. Australia realise that we've competed with them better than anyone else."

On Australia's weaknesses, if any: "They will miss McGrath and Warnie, that's a big void to fill."

On this series: "What we did in 2003 has no bearing on what we will do now… while it's good to have runs behind you, you need to start from scratch in every Test".

On Greg Chappell (a slight frown and a firm answer): "I don't want to talk about Greg Chappell and his decisions".

On how it will be if Dravid is forced to open (a laugh): "Don't ask me! That's Kumble's problem, not mine."

Finally, asked how different it was to be in the team as an ordinary player and not as skipper, especially here in Australia, the setting for one of India's (and Ganguly's) most unforgettable cricketing chapters four years ago, he admitted it was a change. "It makes a huge difference".

"As captain," he continued, "There were times I finished a day and realised I hadn't done anything for myself, hadn't worked on my batting or anything, I was too busy settling things for others. Now, for instance, I needn't think about what to say at a team meeting when I walk in, I'm just another player. I need not think too much about what to do.

Of course, if anyone wants help, I'll help, I help Anil whenever he needs it but at the end, it's our views can be different, our styles can be different…. But obviously, not being captain is a huge difference."

Well, it does seem to have made a tremendous difference to his fortunes on the field. Off it though, his sense of timing never seemed to have deserted him. Ganguly was always one of the more colourful characters in sport, but his newfound zen-like attitude has given him a rich mellowness that only adds to his character and charisma.

He obviously knows the effect his presence has on all those who doubted him and is enjoying every minute of the attention.

Even as he finished up, someone walked up to him and asked if he regretted not being captain. He laughed. "I've had my time mate." But has he? Even he couldn't possibly know. Where Ganguly's concerned, all bets should be off.