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|March 10, 2000|
The Rediff Cricket Interview/ Sourav Ganguly
'I firmly believe that to do well in your cricket life, your married life has to be good'
Some players in the team resent Azhar's presence in the team. How are you planning to handle it?
Let's just keep it that away. He is a top player and I am very happy that he is a part of the team.
You are one of the finest opening batsman in one-dayers; what is the reason that you don't open in Tests even though Anshuman Gaekwad has said that time and again that Sourav is the ideal opening batsman for Test games?
I have never done it in my life. I have never opened in the longer version of the game. I have never tried it and one-day and Test match are two different ball games altogether.
You have the ability and the technique -- I mean everything is going for you and wouldn't it be so much better, I mean we are searching for an opener and that has been going on for so long? Are you planning to open in the near future?
I have never tried it. No, I don't think I want to.
Are you looking to bowl more often now?
Yes, I have bowled. It is not that I haven't bowled under Azhar or Sachin. I have bowled, but if the situation demands; if the conditions demand that I need to bowl, I will.
What is the idea behind the promotion, now that you have promoted yourself to number 3?
Because when I started my career I played at number three for India. Now this Test match, Rahul had to open for India so I was very much happy to play at number 3 for India.
But is that the position where you prefer to be?
I would love to, but Rahul has done very well at number 3. I have done well at 3,4,5, at wherever I have batted. But at present Rahul has batted very well at 3. I have not given a thought to it because the next Test match is in September and I have got time before that. But in the present situation, I am concentrating on the one-dayers. Probably when the Test matches come we will see the situation and we will see the team situation; batting order doesn't matter; you are batting 3,4,5 or 6, it doesn't matter. Only the opening slot is a specialist job, otherwise 3,4,5 doesn't matter.
Not three? You don't think three is a vital position?
It is a vital position but it is not a specialist position.
Barry Richards opined that the 97 you scored against South Africa in the World Cup, you played very slowly towards the end to get to your 100. You know there are always these allegations that whenever you approach your 100 you slow down your game? How do you counter that?
My strike rate has been 90 in one-dayers for the past two years. Now what do you expect of me? I can't get a strike rate of 200. My strike has been 90. In Australia, my strike rate was 92; against New Zealand at home my strike rate was 89. Whatever one-day cricket I have played I have had a good strike rate.
In that game against South Africa in the World Cup I got '97 runs in 119 balls. And you were not playing on flat wickets. You were playing in the month of May in England against one of the top bowling attacks of the world. You had Shaun Pollock, Allan Donald, Jacques Kallis and Klusener.
In the same game Kallis scored 96 and he took more number of balls than I did. He scored his 96 in 128 balls and I scored mine in 119 balls. But the only difference was that South Africa won.
Sourav, your running between the wickets has always been one of your weak points.
I know that. I know I am not the best between the wickets. I am working on it and I think I am improving.
I don't know where this story has come from. We had a manager on the trip to Australia in 1992, Mr. Ranbir Singh. He is probably the worst guy I have ever seen in my life. It is a shame that we have had managers like him for India on long tours. He was a shame, a shame to Indian cricket.
Luckily we have much better people now. That is the reason things like this don't happen against youngsters. I think he had some problem with Dalmiya (Jagmohan) and since I was from Bengal, he took it out on me.
Even schoolboys don't behave like this. I thought it was a shame to have him on the tour. For such long tours you need people of strong character and mind to look after the boys.
So, are we going to have more players from Bengal in the national side now?
No, I don't think so. Whoever is good will play. I have always believed that and that is what will happen. If a fellow from Bombay is good he will play for India; if a fellow from Bengal is good he will play.
But since you play from Bengal you know who the quality players are. In that case won't your opinion be based on your experience? Maybe, you might believe that someone is really good. Take the example of Utpal Chatterjee.
He is still very good. He has already picked up 50 Ranji Trophy wickets. In the last three Ranji Super League matches, he has taken 6 wickets in every game and not 6 for 200 or something. He has six wickets for 50-60 runs. And that too on a track at Eden Gardens which is not a turner and is slow. I think he is still one of the top left arm spinners in the country.
Take me through your first Test innings. Were there butterflies in your stomach as you sat there in the dressing room awaiting your turn? What was it like?
I was a little nervous; anyone would be. My effort was definitely there but I think God was very kind. I had tremendous mindset throughout that tour and I think that paid off. I was never under any kind of pressure. I knew that was the make or break tour for me and I think God was very kind. I would say that it was a mixture of destiny. Maybe I was destined to play for India for a long time. It was God's wish that I play.
I think it also came because of all the rubbish that some people spoke of me when I toured Australia. I always believe one thing in life: if you speak rubbish, about somebody, that is untrue, that person will only get better. I have always maintained that and of whatever little experience that I have had I have seen that happen. If tomorrow I speak something wrong about you, that is not correct, then in about two or three years time you will get better.
What went into that 183 you scored at Taunton that day against Sri Lanka in the World Cup?
I didn't walk out to bat with a mindset that I want to get a hundred or something. I just went on playing. It was a beauty of a wicket. Rahul was in cracking form, he just kept striking the ball and it kept on going into the gaps from ball one. In fact, that didn't put any pressure on me at all. I just kept on playing my game and timing the ball. Everything really fell in place and I reached my hundred in a 112 balls. Then I just took off on Murali, Jayasuriya and the fast bowlers. I just kept hitting and it kept on clearing. At no point did I think that I would get to 183.
I just played over to over. And we kept on changing targets. In the 25th over we thought that we can get to 280; in the 30th over we felt we could get to 300; 35th over we felt we could get 350. And ultimately we landed with 379. Everything went so well. We kept hitting and it went on. People say that the ground was small but I don't think it was.
And the sixes I hit went across the ground into the river. Those would have been sixes on any grounds.
How do you mentally toughen yourself?
It is something that I work on and something that comes as I keep playing. I go through different circumstances, different situations and that toughens you up. Some games I do well, some I don't. You have to work to make yourself tough. At this level it's all in the mind and then it is the physical part. It comes with experience.
Do you believe that this is a faction-ridden team? Take for example the fact that players from one state will speak in their mother tongue in the presence of a player from another state who fails to understand that language.
That is okay. It's a common human tendency. I have studied with somebody from class one to class five. He has been my classmate and I have seen him day in and day out. He's been a good friend of mine and I meet you tomorrow. I have been meeting you for the last 6 months. Of course I am going to be more attached with the fellow whom I have spent all those five years with. But that does not mean I am getting away from you. It in no way means that I am ignoring you or getting away from you. It's normal human tendency and there is nothing wrong with it.
And when you talk on this language issue, I would say that it is not such a big deal. I speak to Debang Gandhi in Bengali, what has that got to do with my cricket?
Won't that make another player feel uncomfortable? Maybe he might think that he is being spoken about.
Why should anyone feel guilty? This guilt only comes when you yourself do something wrong. If you don't steal, and if I meet a person who's trying to steal I won't understand his plan or designs. Only when I do it will I know what he is trying to do.
How much has the game taken away from your normal life?
A lot. I hardly get anytime to spend at home. But my wife and I both know that I will play cricket for ten years. After that it will only be my family. So whatever sacrifices we have to make, let's make it now; because cricket is a priority. This is what I want to do; this is what my family wants me to do.
Does the fact that you are worshipped back home in Bengal affect you? How do you manage to keep a level head with all the following that you have?
I don't forget the tough times that I have gone through. That has been a lesson for me. If you do well they will come and hug you; tell you fantastic things, but at the same time if you don't do well, they will give you hell. So it's not a blind following.
What has Donna's (Sourav's wife) contribution been in your life over the years that you have known her?
She is a very low profile lady. She is not one who has any hassles in life. She is not the type who wants to be talked about or wants to be known as Sourav's wife. She is happy with my family, my parents and her parents. She is happy spending time with my cousins in the house. She is also grown up in a conservative way and she is very happy with the small world that she has. She does not want to be in the news. She is happy with her dance. That is something that she wants to do because she likes to dance. And I think it is fair enough.
And the best part about her is that she will never bother you with questions like "why have you been away for so long?" She understands and that is very important for any cricketer. Because I firmly believe that to do well in your cricket life, your married life has to be good.
Do you discuss cricket with her?
Not at all. She has no clue what the game is all about. (Smiles)
Mail Faisal Shariff
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