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December 31, 1999


India Down Under

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The Rediff Interview / Sourav Ganguly

'My off-side play is just one of the strengths of my batting'

Sourav Ganguly They call him the prince of Calcutta. However, really speaking, Sourav Ganguly is the prince of Indian cricket. He has charmed the cognoscenti of this cricket-crazy country with his heavenly off-side play which often borders on the sublime. In fact, when the 'Bengal tiger' roars, even the best bowlers take back seat. Today the 27-year-old southpaw is a key component in the Indian Test and one-day side.

Haresh Pandya had the opportunity to chat with the master batsman recently. Excerpts from the conversation:

You have come a long way since being picked for the Indian team for the tour of England in 1996 amid a lot of hullabaloo. Do you think you have firmly established yourself in the national side?

Yes, I think so.

Are you at such a stage in your career when you can start taking your place in the Indian team for granted?

No, no, you can't do that. How can you take your place for granted? You have to perform in every game. And you have to be consistent, too. But since I am the vice-captain of the side, I think I can call myself an established member of the team. But I've got to keep performing even then.

You have been in international cricket for quite some time now and doing well too. Do you feel you are at the peak of your career?

Well, I think I have been playing well. But I won't say I am at the peak of my career. I think I can still do better. But, obviously, I have been playing good cricket.

How are you looking forward to the next millennium?

Saurav Ganguly As far as I am concerned, I have always tried my best for my team, both as a batsman and a bowler. I know I have to shoulder more responsibility now that I am the vice-captain. But I am hoping for the best.

How did you spend those long years between 1991 and 1996, when you were out of the Indian team after playing in a solitary one-day match in Australia on what was a difficult tour?

I just kept on playing and performing, hoping that I would be recalled some day. At that time I was very young. In fact, I was only 18 years old. I was happy playing for Bengal and East Zone in domestic cricket. And I enjoyed doing that. That kept me going. The important thing when I got dropped was that I was still very young. So that kept me going and gave me some hope as well.

That's well said, but did you have spells of frustration during that long wait which must have been unbearable? Did you ever, for a moment, think of retiring from the game, like Nayan Mongia did when he had been passing through a similar stage in the early 1990s?

No, I never thought on those lines. I just enjoyed playing the game. I never had any pressure from my family to do anything else. So there was no question of even thinking of retirement. But let me repeat what I said earlier, the important thing was I was very young. And I was confident of my ability. I knew if I could do well, I could make a comeback. But yes, you tend to get frustrated a bit, especially when you do consistently well and expect to be a part of the team and never get selected.

When you eventually got probably the biggest break of your career (your Test debut at Lord's in 1996), what was actually in your mind? Did you want to prove a point or two to some people?

No, no, nothing of the sort. I never thought in that way. I just thought I was given the best possible opportunity to prove my worth again and I should make most of it. I just wanted to prove myself whether I was good enough to play at that level of the game. So, the Lord's Test was quite a test for me personally. I told myself that if I was good enough, I would do well. If I was not good enough, I would not do well.

The point is even the then chairman of selectors, Gundappa Visvanath, was criticised for picking you for that tour of England. Didn't you want to silence or answer your detractors?

Saurav Ganguly Yes, but then it is a part of the Indian system. I was not the first person who was being criticised for being selected for that particular tour. There have been many others before. I believe Rahul Dravid was also being criticised for being selected for the same tour. These things keep happening. You should not worry too much about that. You have just to stick to your game and keep doing the good work.

Right from your Test debut you started setting high standards for yourself. Do you feel you have really lived up to your own high expectations so far and also that of your fans?

I would like to believe that I have done well so far, both in Tests as well as one-dayers. But, obviously, I have got something else on my mind. I have set certain standards for myself and I am going to achieve them.

There is a touch of elegance to your batting. Your left-handed stance adds to your poise and posture at the crease. Have you modelled your batting style on anyone particular?

No, I just play my natural game. I have never been coached that much by anybody. Whatever cricket I play is what comes naturally to me. I have never striven for technique. As long as I am scoring runs -- I am getting behind the ball, I am fine.

Your off-side play has come to be called a thing of beauty and joy forever. Even your detractors appreciate it secretly. How do you personally assess your own off-side game?

Yes, it's a strength of my game. Everybody has his strengths and weaknesses. I think my off-side play is just one of the strengths of my batting.

How do you look at your on-side play? Is there some scope for improvement?

My off-side is so strong. Obviously, I can't be the same in my leg-side. But I am a much better player in the on-side as well. I score freely on the on-side also.

You have played a string of good innings in Tests as well as one-day internationals. Can you recall any particular innings which gave you tremendous satisfaction in terms of technical perfection?

Saurav Ganguly The hundred I scored at Lord's in my first Test. I thought I played really very well during that innings.

Is there any particular bowler who has troubled you a lot?

No, none in particular. But then at this level of the game all bowlers tend to be good. Cricket is so competitive, so professional today, that you have to be exceptionally good, whether you are a batsman, a bowler or a wicket-keeper.

Is there any psychological pressure while representing one's country at the international level?

Yes, there is some pressure. This is what you play for; this is what you work for your whole life, and this is what you enjoy as well. So, obviously, there is a bit of pressure. The more you play, the higher you go. The higher the expectations, the higher the pressure. But it makes you more tough, more determined. I just try and play my natural game and do my best in any situation.

Does education matter for an international cricketer?

Oh, yes, very much. It definitely matters a lot. I think education is a very important part of life. It teaches you how to be a decent human being. If cricket is a part of life, education is another big part of life. So I think all cricketers should at least get educated because education teaches them how to behave well, how to handle different situations. It also teaches them how to be good human beings.

Does it mean that those players who misbehave on the field sometimes, who forget their social responsibility, would not be doing so if they were properly educated?

No, such things don't come with education. It has nothing to do with education. I have seen educated people misbehave as well. I think it comes with everybody's standard and attitude. But there is no denying the value of education for one and all.

What is your academic record?

I am a commerce graduate from St. Xavier's college, Calcutta. I was doing my MBA when I got selected. So my studies finished there.

Were you a brilliant student?

I don't know whether I was a brilliant student, but I was a student.

Do you read much?

No, I am not a big reader.

How would you react to sledging if somebody practices it when you are batting?

Well, as long as it does not go out of control, it is fine.

Does it instigate you or motivate you to do better as a batsman?

Nothing of the sort, really. I am indifferent to such things. I just play my game. I don't bother what somebody else is doing.

But do you believe in sledging, personally?

I have never done that in my life. I don't think it serves any purpose.

How much emphasis do you put on thinking in a game like cricket?

Saurav Ganguly Very much. All players have got to be thinking cricketers. If you don't think, you won't survive in this game. Every day is a new day. So many new things keep happening that you always have to think about your game, what you are going to do in the middle, and so on. So, obviously, you have to be a thinking man if you are playing cricket.

There is growing criticism of your running between the wickets. How far true is it?

I don't know. I have never heard of it. As long as I am scoring runs and I am being able to contribute to the team in winning, I am happy.

How would you rate your own bowling?

Well, I love my bowling. I take it very seriously. And whatever little opportunity I get to bowl, I enjoy it.

Wouldn't you love to bowl longer spells in Tests?

Yes, why not. If the captain wants me to bowl longer spells, I am always ready.

But what if it may affect your batting?

No, it won't, I am sure.

Has marriage changed you as a cricketer and as a person?

No. I think both as a cricketer and as a person I remain the same as I was before getting married.

Any particular ambition in life?

No, nothing yet.

Would you like to lead India in Test cricket in future?

I don't know. I haven't thought about it.

What is your philosophy in life?

Be a nice human being.


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