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Angry fans don't worry Ganguly

India captain Sourav Ganguly insists the extreme reaction from fans in his cricket-crazy country did not bother him, saying he was more worried about how his team played.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2003 16:16 IST

India captain Sourav Ganguly insists the extreme reaction from fans in his cricket-crazy country did not bother him, saying he was more worried about how his team played.

"If I start to worry about what fans think, I would probably never be able to sleep at night," Ganguly said on Thursday.

"My job is to lead the team to the best of my ability both on and off the field. Nothing else matters."

The Indians returned to South Africa on Thursday after putting their World Cup campaign back on track in Zimbabwe where they secured a 83-run win against the co-hosts at Harare on Wednesday.

India must, however, still defeat both England and arch-rivals Pakistan to ensure a place in the Super Six. They next play minnows Namibia at Pietermaritzburg on Sunday.

India's hesitant start to the World Cup, where they failed to last 50 overs against the Netherlands and were shot out for 125 by reigning champions Australia, drew angry protests at home.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was forced to appeal for calm after crowds threatened violence against the families of Ganguly, Mohammad Kaif and other players.

But anger turned to joy after Wednesday's win over Zimbabwe as fans burst crackers to celebrate the victory, a reaction that drew scathing criticism from former Test captain Ajit Wadekar.

"What a fuss our country makes over cricket," said Wadekar, who himself saw first-hand the wrath of fans in his playing days when his home in Bombay was stoned after a 3-0 drubbing by England in 1974.

"Why don't people realise that in sport you lose and win, so why can't we behave like people from developed countries?

"Have we not matured that much after 57 years of independence," Wadekar asked.

Ganguly, who has experienced highs and lows since taking over as captain in 2000, said he expected such extreme reactions from the start.

"Pressure from fans goes with the job," Ganguly said. "You can't afford to dwell too much into that.

"Fans in India are passionate, they love you when you win, but love to hate you when the team loses.

"I was probably the most loved man when we beat Australia in a Test series a few years back. But I am often the most hated man in India."

Senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar, one of the few Indian cricketers whose immense popularity does not dip even in defeat, was forced to appeal for calm before and after the Harare game.

"Having played badly against Australia, we needed to pull our socks up - we did exactly that," Tendulkar said after being named man-of-the match for his 81.

"Fans back home have, in the past, supported us and should continue doing so."

Ganguly said his team was still not performing to its full potential, but was confident of an improved showing in the later games.

"We played only about 80 percent against Zimbabwe. The chinks will be ironed out in the match against Namibia, so that we at our best against England and Pakistan."

The match against Pakistan on March 1 at Centurion will be the first between the two warring neighbours since June, 2000, when they played during the Asia Cup in Bangladesh.

First Published: Feb 20, 2003 16:16 IST