Interview of Cricket Fans – 141 – SOURAV GANGULY
J – Thank you for your participation in this interview, what is your earliest Sourav Ganguly memory?
As a child, I always loved to watch cricket with my grandfather both paternal and maternal. They were the biggest cricket fans I had ever come across, wouldn’t miss a single match. I was 3 years old, was watching the ’99 world cup with my dad and from there only the craze and obsession of Dada started building up. Used to play with my dad in the bedroom disguised as Ganguly and Inzamam. I still call him Inzi bhai!
J – The first thought that comes to my mind after I think of Dada is ‘aggression’. Few words on this mindset that Ganguly tried to inculcate during his playing days?
Ganguly took over the captaincy of Team India when nobody was interested to be the captain as Team India had gone through huge fixing scams.
Many people say that Ganguly got a ready-made team of legends but that’s not true. He did have the likes of Sachin, Dravid, Laxman, Kumble and he’s always been grateful to the same but he backed youngsters like Sehwag, Bhajji, Yuvraj, even MS Dhoni. India under Ganguly started looking different, a fearless attitude of the captain was evident in the team’s confidence no matter where they were playing, even the mighty Aussies felt that this Indian side is something different. That I feel, was the start of the modernization of Indian Cricket as Ganguly instilled the urge of winning, fighting and playing with aggression for the country.
J – Ups and downs and going through purple and rough patches are part and parcel of the game, tell us what are Sourav Ganguly’s ups and downs throughout his career?
Ganguly’s international debut was in 1992 when India went to Australia for playing the Benson & Hedges World Series (involved India, Aus & Windies).
Captain Ravi Shastri got injured and 19 years old Ganguly was given a chance against the mighty West Indian bowling line up on a cracker of a pitch at Brisbane. Sachin’s knock of 77 in that game was a highlight and overshadowed the debutant. That was it, Ganguly was out of the team faster than he got in the side. And not for a series or two but straight for about 4 years. Making a debut for your country at such a young age and then not being able to find a place for yourself for 4 years, it can’t get any harder. So, he didn’t start as the god of offside (as said by his friend and teammate Rahul Dravid) he saw the failures early in his cricketing career. Any faint-hearted person would think to quit but Ganguly returned with a remarkable hundred on his test debut at the Mecca of cricket, Lords alongside Rahul Dravid who missed his century by 5 runs but that was their announcement to the world cricket that India’s future looks to be in safe hands. I think 1999-2003 was Ganguly’s supremacy as the southpaw, opening with Sachin, many remarkable partnerships with Dravid.
Things went ugly when G Chappell joined as the team’s coach and as mentioned in the autobiography of Ganguly, it was his own wish to bring G Chappell to India and boy, how he would have regretted it. India’s fearless captain was thrown out of the team for almost 2 years, 2005-07. Hardly anyone believed that he may make a comeback. But they were wrong, the Royal Bengal Tiger was training hard at the domestic level, even played for India Green whereas most of the players he used to lead were playing for India Blue in the challenger series. Came back with South Africa series in ODI’s scored crucial knocks, again there was a low in his career as India knocked out of CWC 2007, he was in sublime form in the England tour and the Test series vs Pakistan where he scored his highest 239 runs in Bangalore. In 2008, during his sublime purple patch, he took the decision to retire from the International Cricket and that was a glorious end of a career, character, leader, Sourav Chandidas Ganguly.
J – Tell us what were you feeling when one of the staff members on 6th November 2014 (Motera) during an ODI match, came to you and told you that Dada wanted to meet you?
I was shivering, literally! I mean who would do that – calling a fan from the stands to the ground where the pre-match show was happening? I had to go all the way out and enter from a different stand, when I told the guard that Dada has called me in he looked clueless and I didn’t complain, it was hard to digest for anyone. Finally, a couple of crew members came to help and escorted me to the boundary rope of the Sardar Patel Stadium Motera (then). As a child, like every other boy, I also dreamt of playing cricket for India and when I put my foot forward and was about to cross that boundary cushion I fumbled because it still didn’t feel real until a member of the Star Network team came and interacted with me.
Suddenly, there was a Whistle blow by Kapil Paaji he was also the part of Pre-Match show (Ind vs SL ODI, 2014). He signalled towards me and called me where they were standing under an umbrella. I still couldn’t believe that Sourav Ganguly, whom I have literally worshipped for so many years and alongside him the dashing captain who was the favourite cricketer of almost everyone in my family, 83 World cup winning captain Kapil Paaji, both are standing and I am walking towards them. I was crying!! But they were so warm, talked to me very nicely.. even now when I think about it, I’m getting goosebumps. I’d suggest to the readers to go on and read the entire incident on this link: https://t.co/F77cTFNeOt
J – We spoke about Dada – the captain, what about Dada – the batsman? Your favourite innings with the bat?
If I were to describe DADA’s batting in one word – Elegant. My favourite innings of Ganguly has to be his 144 at the Gabba after our top order literally fumbled (1st Test, BGT 2003-04), it kind of set the tone of the series when we eventually went on to retain the Border Gavaskar Trophy and it was a historical series which hardly gets spoken about.
His cover drives, square cuts are gorgeous and that’s why Rahul Dravid once said that on the off-side, first there is god and then Ganguly. Dada once told Ponting to call as much as fielders from the stands and place them on the off-side, he’d still find the gap. Gutsy!
But I think, before Gayle, Maxwell, Rohit if there was a clean hitter of the ball it has to be Sourav Ganguly coming down the wicket and clearing the stadium! Marvellous.
J – The best part about Sourav Ganguly was that he wasn’t just a batsman who could field, he would also bowl a bit, few words on his bowling?
Very underrated as a bowler and after he became the captain, his priorities obviously changed but he was absolutely handy with the ball. Sourav Ganguly is the only player in the world who has won 4 consecutive Man of the match awards – happened in the series vs Pakistan if I’m not wrong and the main reason behind it was not just his batting but the bowling. 5/16 in an ODI, he would’ve definitely picked 200+ wickets had he continued bowling post 2001-02. He had that natural swing and oddballs used to keep low because of his action and the seam position. Another animated memory of DADA’s bowling has to be Pune vs Delhi in IPL when he bowled Kevin Pietersen out and runs like a Shatabdi Express!!
J – Last few words on Dada as we finish off this interview?
Maharaj, Prince of Calcutta, Born with a silver spoon, had a practice pitch in the house, elder brother a Ranjit Trophy cricketer – sounds like a fairy tale doesn’t it? But it wasn’t the case. There were ups, downs, breakdowns, controversies, pranks, a heart attack whatnot. But this man has given his absolute best, in whatever job he’s been given. Batting, Bowling, Captaincy, 12th man, Commentary, Administration and now we’re looking at the differently functioning Board with him as the president.
I hope he continues with the tremendous work that he does and all of us learn not to lose hope and always try to make a comeback with actions and not just with words.
Thanks a lot, Jay, for being so patient and asking these wonderful questions. After giving this interview, I can proudly say that I’ve become Ganguly’s fan, all over again and even bigger than before.