One leader, different avatars
Time. Sourav Ganguly never has enough of it.
In the 10 days between being Indian cricket board’s president-in-waiting to taking charge on Wednesday, Ganguly has been part of the opening night of the Indian Super League, canned episodes of the quiz show in Bangla that is now eight seasons old and held meetings deep into the night to smoothen the transition at the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) which he had been elected to helm till 2020.
Being a walking billboard -- Ganguly’s endorsements include but are not restricted to realty projects, TMT bars, incense sticks, campaign against single-use plastic and study-guides for school-children -- and speaking on leadership to corporate czars meant even more pressure on his time.
Yet, for a man with so much to do, Ganguly fetched up at the Jadavpur University’s Salt Lake campus (about an hour from his CAB office at Eden Gardens and two from his house in Behala in south-west Kolkata) on the first day of a Ranji Trophy match between Sikkim and Manipur last season. Just as he showed up at an exhibition organised by women sports photographers and at the launch of a restaurant last month.
In his public appearances, Ganguly is not always on time but never appears rushed. Every night before he leaves CAB, he runs into a bevy of reporters whose questions he takes before disappearing into the lift. Only for him to run into them again before he gets the car. It has been that way since he became CAB president in 2015. No one can recall him losing his cool at this daily swarm.
Time was of the essence on Wednesday as well. After becoming the 39th president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Wednesday, Ganguly has only ten months before the mandatory three-year cooling period kicks in for an administrator who has served for six years.
A surer way would have been to wait for a full term -- Ganguly would be 51 when his cooling period ends -- but that is not how it works with him. He won the Man-of-the-Match award in New Delhi in an IPL game when he was 39. Because of him, Rahul Dravid kept wickets, Anil Kumble was kept out of World Cup games and VVS Laxman never played a World Cup. Yet he counts all three as friends. As BCCI president, Ganguly would need all of this man-management skills that made him the leader he was; the kind that dropped himself in the batting order.
Once Ganguly had dressed up as a Sardar to partake in the immersion procession of his locality’s Durga Puja, because someone in his family told him there was no way he would pull it off. He didn’t pull it off, but that is not the point; Ganguly never balking at a challenge is. Another attempt at disguising himself by pulling on a cap didn’t work in Lahore but that he threw off the security cordon to savour kebabs is proof that the tried and the tested is not a path he treads.
Ganguly was given former England captain Mike Brearley’s seminal book on captaincy when he was named India captain but, never a bookworm, he didn’t read it. Because Ganguly has said he wanted to create his own template for success.
Mental fortitude and self-confidence defines him. “If two people believe we can score hundreds on a green wicket, then they will while the others won’t,” Virat Kohli said in Ranchi on Tuesday. There is a reason why Kohli is compared to Ganguly.
Quite like Andre Agassi, who rebuilt his career by playing in tournaments far removed from the glamour of Grand Slams, Ganguly called up an official in Punjab and requested game-time in a tournament that he said he barely knew existed. Like Agassi’s father, Ganguly’s too had asked him to give up but he gritted his way back into the India team -- not qualities you would associate with a man called ‘Maharaj’ at home -- because he didn’t want to be thinking of what could have been.
The Eden Gardens -- Ganguly calls it his second home -- forged in him that famous never-give-up attitude of his. It was at Eden that Ganguly practised to visualise his innings, on advice of the former West Indies opener Desmond Haynes. It was here after being dropped from the India team in 2005 that he trained with a parachute, ran lap on lap and batted for hours at its indoor training centre. He has also trained with Kolkata’s top football clubs.
It was when he was playing in a local tournament at Eden that Ganguly learnt of his return to the India team in 1996; and it was there that he was felicitated following his sensational Test debut at Lord’s.
It was while training at Eden after a Ranji game that Ganguly learnt of his comeback to the Indian team in 2006. And it was at Eden that Ganguly shot that cola ad asking whether India has forgotten Dada.
Ganguly says he hasn’t written an autobiography because while cricket ended, his life had just begun. So it fits that at 47, he would take fresh guard.