Continuing with our series of Great Cricket Captains, we interviewed former Indian Cricketer – Mr. Yajurvindra Singh about one of India’s iconic captains – Saurav Ganguly. Here are the excerpts –
Was Saurav India’s best captain ever?
- That’s tough to answer. India have had some fantastic captains like Nawab Pataudi as we discussed in our first episode. We have also witnessed a remarkable tenure of Dhoni as a skipper recently. But Saurav was one of the most influential captains who made a significant impact on Indian Cricket with his leadership. Earlier, the majority of the players used to emerge from big cities. However, Ganguly brought in players from different parts of the country and united them to get the best out of the group. And that is a significant achievement. Remember, Saurav was named as captain post the infamous match-fixing saga that had shocked everyone. But he had some honorable people like Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Kumble with him. He combined these legends together with youngsters like Sehwag, Yuvraj, Bhajji, Zaheer to bring back the faith of the Indian fans into Cricket with some memorable performances. He united us as a cricketing nation which is his greatest contribution to Indian cricket.
Was he an instinctive captain?
- Yes, he was in some ways. In fact, Dhoni was far more instinctive as a captain. But to do well in Test Cricket, you can’t just go by instincts. You need to plan well as a team. As Saurav often says, “A Captain is as good as his team”, which is absolutely true. To be successful as a leader, the team needs to back the captain. Ganguly had the luxury of having some of the finest batsmen in Sachin, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag who could pile on tonnes of runs. He also had spinners like Kumble and Bhajji in their prime. And that formed a very strong core. India were always a strong team at home. But under Dada’s inspirational leadership the team began to perform far better overseas. It was under his captaincy that the world started to look at India as a serious threat overseas.
Views about The ‘Greg Chappell –Ganguly Saga’
- A very unfortunate episode in Indian cricket; especially at the time when we were rising as a cricketing nation. Greg had actually helped out Dada with his technique when we had toured Down Under in 2003-04. And Saurav had scored a magical hundred at Brisbane in that series. So it seemed that there was a great camaraderie between the two which might have prompted Saurav to insist BCCI to have Greg as our Coach. But sometimes things don’t work out as we wish them to. Both Saurav and Greg are strong personalities and I believe the conflict transpired due to their cultural clash. There must have been disagreements over the selection of some players as well which is why the team was disintegrated. It was indeed an unfortunate chapter in Indian Cricket History.
About best moments of Dada as a captain
- We all remember and cherish our famous series win over Australia in 2001. After losing the first match at Mumbai, India bounced back at Kolkata after conceding the follow-on, which was quite extraordinary. Dravid and Laxman batted out of their skin and Bhajji bamboozled the Kangaroos with his off-spin. India then sealed the series with a win in Chennai and made history. India found new heroes in each game and Dada was simply outstanding as a captain. His tactic to move the in-form Laxman at No.3 and the faith he instilled in a young Bhajji worked wonders. He was able to put pressure on the mighty Aussies as India stopped their record-breaking series winning streak. Saurav also brought in a lot of aggression. Remember when he made Steve Waugh wait for the toss? It was the first sign that India were no more ‘The Nice Guys’ who let the opposition dominate. Ganguly made a statement by making Waugh wait. And how can we forget the celebration in the Lord’s balcony after The Natwest Trophy Final win in 2002? That famous celebration was in reply to what Flintoff did against India in 2001. That ‘shirt’ moment was another emphatic statement. By doing that, he told the young generation in India that ‘This is our time. We are fearless and won’t back down from a challenge.’ Ganguly indeed gave us some great memories.
In today’s era, do you believe that Ganguly would have captained India in all 3 formats?
- Oh, absolutely! He would have played in all the formats anyway. And being a natural leader, I’m sure he would have captained India in all the formats. He retired a bit too soon or else we could have witnessed his charisma as a T20 captain! Undoubtedly, Dada was one of India’s finest captains.
- Prasad Palkar