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An interview with Sourav Ganguly

- by Pinaki Datta

Arguably, his popularity has only increased since his retirement. He is India’s most successful cricket captain ever – and the architect of the new look “Team India.” The pride of playing for India, satisfaction of achieving the highest even amidst the toughest of times, life after retirement, IPL, his plans going forward, here are glimpses of a very sensitive Sourav Ganguly in a candid conversation with Pinaki Datta.

Urhalpool: When you are in Kolkata, how’s a day now different than when you were playing?

Sourav Ganguly: Oh – it’s a lot different – in every aspect of it!! While playing the day used to go by the routine – getting up in the morning, going to the ground - if there is a match, warming up for the game, playing it and returning back home at five, totally tired and exhausted. Now – I don’t have any rush. I take things as I wish – no alarm clock waking me up in the morning, no time constraint at all. It’s a whole new ball game!!

Urhalpool: Even after retirement, you did put up your pad and take up the willow just to lift Bengal from the Plate group to the Elites’ in Ranji. And you met that target. However, in the very next game, Bengal lost and that created one hell of a controversy. What are your thoughts?

Sourav Ganguly: Look – more often than not that’s the case. Whenever a team loses, one controversy or the other usually pops up. We should not bother too much about it!! I would rather say – it’s quite an achievement for Bengal to get promoted to the Elite group in the very next season after getting relegated to the Plate. It’s not an easy task by any means. The fact that we could perform the feat within one season should be hailed and we should all be happy about it. Let’s hope that the team does even better next time around.

Urhalpool: Do you regret not playing in the game – now that Bengal lost it?

Sourav Ganguly: (Smiling) No.

Urhalpool: But I understand that you will be playing for Bengal in the one-day version of the tournament.

Sourav Ganguly: Yes, I will. (Sourav did play for Bengal again in February in the one-day format of Ranji trophy, most likely for one last time).

Urhalpool: Sourav Ganguly symbolizes an eternal fighter. Sourav Ganguly is the epitome of courage, of looking straight into one’s eyes. He is the name of triumphing against all odds. Not only to the huge fans and followers, but even to the people of Bengal, and to every common man of India you are an icon. An icon of courage, grit, determination, and never-say-die attitude. Do you really enjoy that? Or are there second thoughts, a wish that life might have been less challenging, a more smooth sailing one?

Sourav Ganguly: I don’t think life could be really smooth sailing for any human being. If you want to rise beyond your limits, if you wish to succeed, obstacles are bound to come aplenty. There’s a different kind of satisfaction in achieving something in the midst of challenge – a pleasure of its own kind. I consider myself very lucky that I could play and consistently perform for my country. These are my invaluable treasures of life – only these beautiful memories, and not the hiccups and obstacles that came along.

Urhalpool: So could one conclude that, by nature, you like to take up challenges and still emerge shining?

Sourav Ganguly: I never took it from this angle, never thought from this perspective, frankly! My only target was that red cherry. I knew that once I cross the white rope into the field, it’s me alone. And I only have to perform. Always had the faith - if I could perform in the past, I still can. And that faith is what kept me going. Whether I have a point to prove to someone or not was never in my focus. In any case, I could only score runs and leave the rest up to the selectors.

Urhalpool: As the captain of “Team India” you could bring in that element of aggression. Be it attitude, or fighting spirit, or regular victories on foreign soil – elements mostly missing thus far were implanted in Indian cricket. What was your biggest challenge as the Indian captain?

Sourav Ganguly: The biggest challenge was to build up the team. When I took over as captain, we had a bunch of regulars retiring almost simultaneously. It was very critical to build up the team all over again inducting some fresh blood. I had one advantage though – at that point Sachin, Rahul, myself were all nearing the peak of our individual careers and, more importantly, all of us were of nearly the same age. That surely made things a bit easier. The task was cut out, to shape up the team combining the seniors and juniors.

Urhalpool: Anything else? Any other challenge, worth a mention?

Sourav Ganguly: Nope. The selectors gave me the team of my choice. I got all the support I needed from them at that time. Same can be said about the board. So my job was relatively easy. The primary work was to search for the fresh ones, build up the team and to make winning a habit.

Urhalpool: Not specifically in your case, but generally speaking – what are the biggest challenges for the captain of our national cricket team?

Sourav Ganguly: (After a brief pause) To find the right player and compose the team as a winning combination. Captaincy is hard work – a captain has to do a lot. He has to devote quite an amount of time. But there is nothing more important than to tune the team in the same scale.

Urhalpool: The Zimbabwe tour of 2004-05 and a few months after that, looking back, do you wish you had done anything differently if you had the option to go back in time?

Sourav Ganguly: No. I always had only one objective – to perform well, and in the process, do things to steer Indian cricket to a greater height. There was no other intention whatsoever. So I did not let anything else bother me. As I said, my job was to keep on performing and that’s what I focused on.

Urhalpool: You have expressed in some recent interviews that you have lost much of your interest in the game after retirement.

Sourav Ganguly: Isn’t that natural? The charm and satisfaction of playing for India and that of performing well for the country, is insurmountable!! It’s a different feeling. Things are never going to be the same once you don’t play for the country anymore.

Urhalpool: So, that was the biggest motivator about cricket?

Sourav Ganguly: Of course there cannot be any bigger motivator than to play for India and to do well in that!!

Urhalpool: Ten years from now what would make you happiest – to see yourself successful as a coach, commentator or cricket administrator?

Sourav Ganguly: Don’t know!! Ten years is too long a time.

Urhalpool: Okay. Five years? You must have some thoughts or plans about the future.

Sourav Ganguly: Yes, I do – IPL is there for two more years. We have to try our level best to ensure the best performance for the team. I do have some other thoughts as well, but nothing specific after cricket. I will take things as they come and decide accordingly.

Urhalpool: People of Kolkata, and Bengal in general, think about Knight Riders as their very own. They have created some sort of bond with the team – the team theme song has become a very commonplace one. Did you ever think about what would happen to them after you quit?

Sourav Ganguly: Quite frankly, no.

In fact, it’s rather difficult for me to comment on this. It’s the decision of the team owners. I would hope that it would continue to be based in Kolkata as the team is called “Kolkata Knight Riders.” And I would also hope that the young lads of Bengal will be able to use this platform to propel their careers forward.

Urhalpool: You come from a family with rich religious affiliation. In fact, you yourself are also quite religious minded. Do you believe in reincarnation or next birth?

Sourav Ganguly: (Smiling) Never considered this. Let me spend this life as well as I can - will think about next birth afterwards.

Urhalpool: But if there is something called a next birth, what would you want to be?

Sourav Ganguly: I want to play cricket again and do exactly what I did this time around.

Urhalpool: Our organization SREESHTI came up with this e-zine URHALPOOL with the mission of taking Bengali literature & language to the other communities in and outside India. And in the process we want to create a connection or a medium of exchanging views and ideas – literary and otherwise. What’s your opinion about this kind of a venture?

Sourav Ganguly: It’s very much required. I would sincerely hope it to make positive contributions to our betterment as – generally speaking – we do need to make progress. I would also hope that in every sphere you work – literature, sports, movies – you do promote and support the deserving and in the process transmit the right image to the world.

Urhalpool: Thank you very much for your time.

May 2009, Vol:2, Issue:1