O Captain; My Captain.
By : Sukh Grewal
When Sourav Ganguly made his ODI debut in 1992, things did not start as rosily as he would have wanted to. He was dropped from the side after a forgettable innings and it looked like the end of road at the beginning itself. The belief that he would not make it to the International circuit again was based not only on his performance but also had some non-cricketing reasons. However, fate had something else stored in for him. And when the opportunity arrived, like a Tiger waiting for its prey, Ganguly pounced on it and grabbed it with claws, paws and jaws. He hammered a scintillating hundred on debut for India at the Lord’s Test in 1996. And then followed it with another 100 at Trent Bridge and announced his arrival in a grand fashion.
But nothing has come easily to the Prince of Kolkatta. He got to hold the reins of Team India in 2000 from the ODI Series against South Africa when Indian cricket was in turmoil and a blanket of gloom layered over it because of the Match-fixing saga. At such a juncture Team India needed a leader who could inspire it to fight against all odds and get the team back on its feet. Who better than Ganguly who himself had earlier risen from the ashes. Taking the bull by the horn, Ganguly started the process of turnaround for the Indian side with his brand of Inspirational, Uncompromising and Tough captaincy. The best lesson he gave to the side was ‘look inside’, ‘Polish your Strength and Work on your Weakness’. Not the one to be intimidated , he infused in the team self-belief and the belief that they could win against ant team, anywhere. It has been well known how Sourav Ganguly has backed, inspired and influenced young new generation players, but the fact is that he has also had his influence on his contemporaries too never gets its mention. His brand of controlled aggression rubbed into softies like Tendulkar, Dravid and Kumble too, to the amazement of everybody.
“He had confidence in his players and always backed them even when things weren’t going their way. He was an inspirational captain and it was under his captaincy that we started to believe we could win overseas as well.”
That was the Ganguly Effect. A veteran and successful bowler, Kumble looked to his captain for Inspiration. And because of Ganguly’s charisma, his confidence , in action and in words,and his no nonsense attitude, even the seasoned ones shined brighter under him. Kumble also added, “Ganguly was a thinking captain and wanted to be a step ahead of the opposition – both on and off the pitch. He and John Wright worked very hard in instilling a winning mentality in Indian cricket.” The man not only changed the scene he had his effect on the mentality of the entire team. If the changes would be superficial they would not last long. So the man made a mark on the entire thought process of everybody involved. Without doubt , the Indian side has always been a very talented one but it had also been the one with self-doubt. Ganguly hit his axe right there, at the root of the problem.
“When I took the decision about not leading the Indian team, I had suggested Sourav’s name to succeed me as Indian team captain. I always thought that he had had the ability to lead the team. He is a thinking cricketer who loves challenges. He is always ready to take a few risks and loves to lead the team aggressively”.
What Sachin saw in Ganguly was a man who loved challenges and cherished being put to test. Though Ganguly has always come across as a Risk-taker, the fact is he was a thinking cricketer and no impulsive fool.Sachin saw aggression in him, a captain who loved to take risks and then work hell bent to prove it all correct.
He backed players like Yuvraj, Harbhajan and Dhoni purely on the basis of their merit and not some zone selection policy.When he backed a 19 yrs old Harbhajan Singh to play against the mighty Australians in 2000,many thought he was not only risking losing the Series but also putting the youngsters career at risk.He was suggested to go for some experienced spinner to replace Anil Kumble, but Ganguly had made his choice.What showing such immense faith in a youngster did was stuff self-belief in him and the ‘Turbunator rose very well to the occasion. No wonder Yuvraj Singh once famously said, “I’m ready to die for such a captain”. And Harbhajan Singh’s undying support for Sourav is known by one and all.
Sourav Ganguly will remain ‘the man to look up to’,the man manual on ‘how to captain your side successfully’ and even copy on the field for generations of captains to come.
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