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Always the warrior

For Sourav Ganguly, the alarm still trills at 7am. Nearly four years after he quit playing for India, the desire to stretch an arm, switch it off and stay between sheets continues to be kept on hold. Dhiman Sarkar reports. Sourav Ganguly in IPL

india Updated: Mar 27, 2012 02:26 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times

For Sourav Ganguly, the alarm still trills at 7am. Nearly four years after he quit playing for India, the desire to stretch an arm, switch it off and stay between sheets continues to be kept on hold.

"I am a believer in morning training and so, I still get up at 7. I am out of the house at 7.30 and by 8, I am at the ground. I train till around 1pm. Then I get back and rest. The biggest difference over the past three years and the 20-odd before that is that I am at home most evenings," says Ganguly.

In flip-flops and casuals, fiddling with his mobile phone and asking for a cup of tea as you are being served in the spacious sitting area of his family residence in the south Kolkata suburb of Behala, Ganguly seems at ease. Everything, right down to Choco, the pug, enjoying a post-lunch snooze outside is a picture of quiet contentment on a late weekend morning.

Relaxed retirement?
Had he not mentioned the training regimen so early in our conversation, Ganguly would actually have seemed like a regular guy, one for whom the whirligig of international sport is now a compilation of anecdotes, some more glorious than others.

He is anything but. Wearing lightly the tiredness of a late-night flight - Ganguly had got in from Dubai hours before we spoke on Saturday and, but for a stiff hamstring, would have left for the national T20 championship in Mumbai by evening - India's most successful cricket captain says he is busier now than when he played full time.

There are television commitments, ad shoots and a promise of visiting his cricket academy in Salt Lake in east Kolkata twice a month that he tries to keep.

But what Ganguly claims to be passionate about beyond the boundary is setting up schools where academics and sport get equal status.

School of thought
A land deal in Kolkata has almost been finalised but, having had to surrender a plot earlier, he isn't keen on going into the specifics. But the one in Siliguri should be up and running by January 2014, he says. And there are plans to branch out to the rest of the country.

"Education is what motivates me outside cricket now. I know I can make a difference in helping build futures. I have ideas that I will share with everyone when the time is right but there is nothing more satisfying than helping children," he says.

"You see, from every 1000 students, you will be lucky to get two who will go on to play for the country. My school will aim to provide the tools for that but, more importantly, I want to empower them with enough skills to get on with life. That's my challenge now.

"Financially, I can earn three times more if I spend that time as a TV commentator but it isn't always about money."

The IPL dream
The immediate future though is about walking out to bat. "I am very excited about the IPL," he says. Is it because the Maharaj (also his nickname) still hasn't worn that crown? "That and also because I still enjoy playing."

"Unlike people with a lot of other jobs, it's not possible for me to take a three-year sabbatical and return to doing what I like most. I still want to play. I still enjoy hitting a six and I still enjoy the buzz at a cricket ground. That people expect you to do well is an incredible high and that's reason enough for me to get excited, to go out and train. For me, job satisfaction is living up to their expectations.

"I think I am stronger now than when I was, say, 21. The fitness schedules that I now follow, the weights I now do, I didn't when I was young. But then, I also know it's not going to last for ever even if I want it to be that way," he says.

All in the mind
The final goodbye, he says, will come when "you fall in your esteem."

Ganguly says he thought about giving up international cricket, six months before he actually did (in October 2008). But does he still miss it, given that he still plays with many he's either shared a dressing room or a great rivalry with?

"No, I don't miss not playing for India anymore. I did soon after I retired but not now," he says. "Your reactions depend on what you tell yourself. It's all in the mind."

That's why when the alarm rings, the hand doesn't reach out to switch it off. Or even put it in the snooze mode.

Sourav Ganguly in IPL

First Published: Mar 27, 2012 00:46 IST