Sourav Ganguly is undoubtedly the cynosure of all eyes at the MCG. For many people here, Ganguly has gone from being a gifted but temperamental captain to a man who took on one of their own legends and beat him fair and square. Ganguly has been to Australia five times for international cricket, but has probably never received the kind of attention or adulation he is now getting. It is probably a fitting prelude to his 100th Test.
When you look back at your Test career, do you view it as phases, sometimes very difficult ones and wonder at the contrast with your one-day career?
Not really. It's been very good, not been great like my one-day international career of course. At the same time, I still average 43 in Tests, have 6,000 plus runs and most of that has come batting at No. 6. I'm going to be honest here, it's far easier batting at No. 3 and No. 4 in Indian conditions, in most conditions, so I'm sure I'll finish with respectable figures.
Is respectable enough for someone ultra-competitive like you?
It's just a word, a way of saying it. I mean I'm sure I'll finish with good numbers, not like a Sachin, a Lara or a Ponting maybe, but hopefully, somewhere close.
For the most, your Test career as a batsman cannot be viewed in isolation of your Test career as a captain? Would it have been easier on Ganguly, the batsman, if you had not been captain for so long?
I've always maintained that captaincy takes a lot of time, a lot out of you, a lot from you. It's not easy at all. But captaining India is a big honour, it always will be and captaining India successfully, I think that was the key that overrode everything else. I captained India in 50 Tests and 150 one-dayers, that is quite something and I captained successfully. There was no point in being skipper for long if you were getting hammered all over. So I'm pretty happy with how it's gone, especially overseas and I have no regrets on that front. I've done the best I could, whatever I could, every time I went out to bat. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.
Is there one definitive moment in your career?
It has to be that first Test at Lords, it changed the way my career was shaping up and that 100 changed my entire attitude to batting and the entire concept of batting.
What exactly is your outlook to your batting?
Staying positive throughout as I'm not as technically correct as others. I have certain strengths that others don't have and I've stuck to them. Like I said, batting at No. 6 in India is really tough.
What are your greatest strengths?
My determination and ability to stay focussed, my offside game I think and an ability to understand the game and the bowlers.
And your weakness — if you think you have any?
Everybody has weakness! If I have a next life and I become a batsman again, I want to become one of the best pullers of the cricket ball.
Why the pull?
It's a dominating shot, I want to dominate the game that way.
And your vote for the best puller in the business?
Ricky Ponting, no two ways about it.
You've often mentioned the importance of detachment, especially after the trauma of the recent past. Now that you're back, do you still keep that distance?
It is important, vital for me and I manage to do that very well now. I do it all the time in fact, keep that distance from everything, in every situation.
Does that take away from the passion and intensity that Sourav Ganguly was famed for?
That was different, I was the captain; I had to be intensely involved in every single thing, big or small. Or you can have a side that Waugh or Lloyd had. You wake up next morning, hand the ball to Marshall or Holding or Roberts, stand in the slips and have to do nothing much. Now it's different, it's a completely different ball game for me. I have to be this way now, keep some part of me detached, it helps.
Did you miss the time you didn't get to yourself all these years?
I didn't exactly miss it, but I tried to make the most of whatever I had. There is no point missing something you don't have and can't.
You seemed involved with teaching Pankaj Singh something at nets today?
It was just a casual thing. When I was batting against him, I saw something that I thought would help him. It was just a chat. If I was captain, it wouldn't be casual, I would have to make sure he gets better!
Frequently asked question. What went wrong?
Seriously, I don't know what went wrong but I can tell you what went right. I put in huge effort, a helluva lot of hard work and then, most importantly, God was equally kind to me for what had happened to me when I was left out. I was probably destined for all this.
You're a thinker, you never analysed what went wrong?
I'm not sure I want to get into it just ahead of my 100 th Test but I suppose it was just circumstances. I did not play well at times and was in the team, I when I was playing well I was dropped, a bit of both. Also obviously, whatever happened with Chappell did not help.
Technically, my understanding my game was crucial to me. But when you're travelling and playing day in and day out, moving from one hotel to another, one game to another, juggling time and the captaincy, you can get lost in that busy schedule. Time away gives you a different perspective. You get time to try and work on the edges.
How tough was it keeping the doubts at bay?
I think doubts will always be there, they are part and parcel of professional sport. There will be phases when you don't score runs. Ponting once went thru a phase in India where he couldn't put bat to ball, he would definitely have doubted himself then. What's important is how you come back, how quickly you pull back. In international cricket, the most important thing one has to do is to deal with failure, more than success.
How have you dealt with disappointments?
By trying to keep it simple, always remembering that I need to perform. When I bat, in a Test or ODI, whether I score today or not, I always remind myself that when I wake up tomorrow, I need to score again.
What happened between you and Rahul Dravid?
Nothing happened. Perhaps just because he was captain and left me out, things went off the ropes somewhat. I think the people around didn't help at all either.
What has cricket given you?
Everything… not financially, cricket wouldn't have made that much of a difference to that. But I've learnt a lot in life through this game. If I hadn't played, I would have been in my own family world, protected from everything. Cricket opened me up to a world that I did not know existed, it gave me a wonderful life I would never have known.
Does being Sourav Ganguly sometimes get to you?
No, I don't think myself as Sourav Ganguly, the cricketer. I try and do pretty much the things that make me happy and what I want to do all the time. I don't need to detach myself in that sense, from myself. It's actually always been that way. With me, what you see is what you get. It's not always the case with others.
Anything you have left to do?
Just play and finish whenever I want to, on my own terms.