Sourav Ganguly’s 10-odd years of international cricket have coincided with some of Indian cricket’s most happening events — times of joy and hope, desperate moments of despair…
In a freewheeing chat with Dr Prannoy Roy at the Eden Gardens before he left for the Caribbean, excerpts of which are reproduced here, Ganguly spoke on cricket and more, from his debut to the much-publicised circumstances of his comeback, from his take on the team to rarer details of family life.
Read on for an insight into a man who has easily moved from being the flamboyant player-captain to the introspective player-philosopher.
Which was more memorable, when you were first selected for the Indian team, or when you made your comeback?
I think when I was first selected for the 1996 tour to England. That was probably the happiest moment of my life.
How did you hear about it?
It was an afternoon in 1996, right after the World Cup, and I was sitting in my house when I saw my name in the list of the team that had been selected for the tour. I still believe I just managed to squeeze in.
And what a tour it was! What was going through your mind on the field then?
To represent the country in a sport I love was in itself great, but to do well was a feeling hard to explain.
How did you react to the success? Are you emotional?
I was very happy, yes, but I didn’t start jumping or anything. I am not that expressive off the field.
And how did you hear about making it back to the team?
Well, first on the TV. And the next morning, when the team actually got selected, I got a call from (BCCI secretary) Niranjan Shah.
When you were dropped, you had achieved almost everything a cricketer could dream of. You had runs in your bag, you had led the country to a World Cup final. What was the motivation to stage a comeback?
Well, firstly, I wanted to play the World Cup. Secondly, I wanted to see whether I was good enough to come back into the team. I wanted to see whether I was good enough to fight this battle.
Being someone who has fought the odds and come back stronger, what would you like to tell people who are struggling to reach their goal?
I think they just have to keep trying. If you don’t try, you are not going to achieve anything. You have to think about it and decide that, say, ‘I am going to give myself two years to become what I want to’. I think it’s important to get into the right frame of mind.
Were there ever moments of doubt in your mind?
Yes, I have been through periods where I thought I might not make it again, but I gave myself a year to do it.
What if it hadn’t happened in a year?
I would have moved forward. I probably wouldn’t have played the game anymore.
What’s the difference between being just a player and a captain?
I get more time for myself now.
Do you have even the slightest desire to be captain again?
No… I am very happy. I am freer mentally; I am more focussed on my game. I am fresher on the ground.
What do you want to do once you retire?
I want to be involved with the game at some stage. But straight after I finish, I would stay at home. I want to be a coach someday, though.
What is your take on the recent thrashing the Aussies received from England and New Zealand?
We must realise that they rested a lot of players. However, their World Cup team’s focus will be only on the big event. They will miss Brett Lee, though.
Do you look back in anger at some of the events in your life?
No, everything has helped me at different stages, got the best out of me, in some way or the other. What’s gone is gone. I tend to look forward.
How did your teammates respond to your comeback?
They were superb! What also helped was the fact that I got runs as soon as I came back. I scored in the game at Potchefstroom when the team wasn’t doing well. We won the game and things settled down very quickly.
Why do you think were you failing with the bat a year ago?
Well, it’s not that I was not doing well when I was dropped. One must realise that when you are around for 11-12 years, these phases come — nobody has got away from it, and nobody will. And I also accept that getting dropped is part and parcel of sport. Everybody has to live with it.
Are you superstitious?
A bit… I always wear my left pad first.
How would you explain the experimentation in the Indian team?
I think a bit of it is okay... But it should not be at the cost of performance. I firmly believe that you should come to this level ready, whoever it is, whatever age you are. Obviously, at times you have to make certain changes depending on the situation of the game. I mean, if you need eight runs in an over and you have both Kaif and Dhoni padded up, you will obviously send in Dhoni. But 80 per cent of the time, it should be a consistent thing because it helps a batsman prepare.
Is opening your most preferred position?
I enjoy it the most, yes. But I am happy anywhere.
Imagine you are playing the last ODI of your career… Where would you want to play it?
A day-nighter at the Eden Gardens.
Who do you think will be India’s trump card at the World Cup?
Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He can be a match-winner.
Though there is no doubting that you have great footwork, you are not the best in the family. That title belongs to your daughter, right? So, is she going to be a dancer one day?
That’s what her mother wants her to be, but I think she herself is keener on singing.
Yes, she wants to sing. But irrespective of what she wants to become, dancer or singer, I want her to study.
Like you did?
Unlike what I did, actually! (Laughs) But she can do whatever she wants, as long as she is successful.
But not a cricketer?
What do you think you are best at? Being a father, a husband or a cricketer?
A father, I think.
(Note: While Dr Roy did most of the asking, a few questions included here were asked by the audience.)