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'What you think matters, not what others think'

Source: Telegraph India      

: Had Sourav Ganguly not found a place in the England-bound squad in the summer of 1996, after over four years in the wilderness, he would’ve quit and concentrated on the family business in Calcutta. Sourav, as it turned out, was selected and went on to score a hundred on Test debut at Lord’s. After a superb career, Thursday will mark the start of his final India appearance.
In the lead-up to his last Test, Sourav (India’s most successful Test captain, by the way) spoke to The Telegraph at length. The following are excerpts
Q It’s expected that somebody about to play his last Test would be somewhat emotional. You’re remarkably calm...
A That’s because my last India appearance hasn’t come on me all of a sudden... I’ve been different from Anil (Kumble), who suddenly announced that the last day of the Kotla Test would also be the last of his career. My decision to quit was made known a month back, plus I’d been mentally preparing myself for a month or so before that.
At different times, you’ve said that there’s more to life than cricket...
(Interrupting) There is, absolutely... There’s a very normal side to a Sachin Tendulkar too... Even those in other walks of life who haven’t been fortunate to earn much and travel a lot are happy... Even for a cricketer, cricket can’t be everything.
How would you like to end what has been an awesome career?
With a good performance... (Adds emotionally) That, indeed, would be a great way to go...
After Nagpur, you’ll suddenly be left with much time...
Unless I’m required to try and get Bengal out of a corner in the Ranji Trophy, I intend taking a complete break from cricket till the 2009 IPL... I have a three-year contract with the Knight Riders and, so, will be playing the Twenty20 stuff till 2010... You know, I’m really looking forward to spending time with the family... I’d like to play a big part in the growing up of (daughter) Sana, who is seven now... Plus, I’m quite passionate about the education project I intend starting in Salt Lake... That will be exciting... Off and on, I’ll probably be a commentator on TV... So, there will be quite a few things to do... Of course, I’ll be available to promote Bengal in whatever way I’m asked to.
To cut to the present... How do you look back on your career?
I’m satisfied... Had somebody told me that I’d play over 100 Tests and over 300 ODIs and captain India in almost 50 Tests, at the start of my first-class career (1989-90), I’d have shooed him away... Today, then, I’ve got to feel satisfied... I’d wanted to be a cricketer and have achieved success as one.
No regrets?
Not even the time (2005-06) when you got dropped both from Tests and ODIs...
That wouldn’t be a regret for the simple reason that I couldn’t do anything about it... Getting selected wasn’t in my hands... I had no control... The way sport is, nothing can be perfect... Performance counts and there will be ups and downs.
A lot of people, including Kiran More, tried to take credit once you made a statement-making comeback in December 2006. Did that amuse you?
I wouldn’t like to go into that... What I’ll say is that no player wants to be dropped.
How will you react if you bump into More tomorrow?
(Pauses) Won’t be able to answer that...
What did Greg Chappell tell you in Bangalore, the day after you announced that this would be your last series?
He congratulated me on my career... That’s it.
Are you disappointed that your relationship soured after Greg became the India coach?
I have nothing against him... Greg, I feel, was misinformed about a lot of things... He was misled by some people... Towards the end of his (nearly two-year) stint, I think, he realised that.
Going back to your career, while your place as a one-day great is assured, one feels you under-achieved in Tests. That you should’ve been, say, 9,000-plus instead of 7,000-plus runs...
I could’ve been there, yes... I don’t disagree, but you’ve got to remember that I often batted at No.5/6 and, most of the time, we didn’t really have a wicketkeeper-batsman after me... So, in a way, that definitely limited the time at my disposal.
What has the journey as an India cricketer taught you the most?
(Grins) Had I not played for so long, I wouldn’t have learnt as much about life... That it’s never over is something I learnt the most... Also, as I’ve told you, if you want to do something, nobody can stop you... That no obstacle is big enough... What you think matters, not what others think... It’s important to be strong in the mind. To give my own example, coming from an over-protected family, I could’ve adopted a different lifestyle once I got exposed to the world. However, I didn’t and having to confront tough situations on the field made me stronger.
Being a role model, have you been conscious about having to behave in a particular manner?
Well, yes... Not that I’d ever like to unnecessarily draw the public’s attention to something... At the same time, I believe one should lead life the way one wants to... I guess the generation I grew up with has made me the person I am.
Have you noticed a change in the newer generation of cricketers?
They are different... They are fearless.
You’ve been saluted as somebody with enormous mental toughness. What exactly is being tough in the mind?
Backing your ability in the most demanding of situations... Irrespective of how difficult the odds, you’ve got to trust yourself... Nowadays, there’s a lot of scrutiny and one is bound to hear some of the negative comments doing the rounds... When that happens, you’ve got to get those comments out of your system and to keep believing you can do it... This mental toughness has to come from within and if that doesn’t happen then, well, it will be difficult to survive as a pro.
The 2005-06 period was particularly tough on you...
I gave myself a 50-50 chance of making a comeback. No more.
Today, how do you reflect on the comeback (at the Wanderers), in December 2006?
My determination helped... I never lost the belief that I could still deliver in international cricket... That the team didn’t do well in the tri-series in Malaysia, the Champions Trophy at home and the ODIs in South Africa helped as well... I think a lot of people knew I was a better player than the rest (available).
It’s ironical that Dilip Vengsarkar helped in your comeback and also played a role in your decision to quit...
I have a lot of regard for Dilip... He had a job to do as chief selector and, hopefully, did so in the best interests of the team. I wouldn’t have made a comeback if he hadn’t supported me in 2006... (After a pause) You don’t get everything in life, but that’s the way it is.
Would you have thought of retirement had you still been playing ODIs?
No... I’m hurt at the way I was dropped (January this year), that too after having a high average over the past year... I wasn’t given a reason... It just wasn’t fair... Players who’ve performed over a period of time shouldn’t be dropped like a hot potato. That’s not how things should work... Communication is required... I had the confidence to do well in ODIs and I’m sure I would’ve scored in that form as well.
Have you been thinking of your Test debut, at Lord’s, in 1996?
Can’t forget the hundred I got then... That innings changed me as a batsman... Gave me so much more confidence... By the grace of God, I never lost that confidence... That way, I’ve been fortunate... You need to be determined and need to be desperate too... If you don’t have the want, you won’t succeed.
To talk of captaincy... Among other things, ‘Tiger’ Pataudi is remembered for making the players aware of the importance of fielding. Will you be best remembered for hardening the team, giving it much steel?
Perhaps, yes... Also, with great support from the senior group, getting the team to become very competitive overseas... I’m happy that the youngsters I encouraged have developed into match-winners... Harbhajan (Singh) made his comeback in 2000-01, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh got their break (2000-01) when I was the captain... (Virender) Sehwag made his Test debut, in 2001-02, under my captaincy and don’t forget (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni made his maiden India appearance (2004-05) when I was the captain.
What has gone wrong with Yuvraj?
Look, he has the talent and, when opportunities come, he has to give Test cricket the value it deserves... Runs don’t come from talent alone.
Are you still disappointed that the team tripped at the last hurdle in the 2003 World Cup and you couldn’t do a Kapil Dev?
Yes... I think that was the best team I led in ODIs... At the end of the day, though, one is judged by results and the 1983 team will be saluted as India’s finest ever... That team, after all, won the World Cup.
The Test series which gave you the most satisfaction?
The one at home, in 2000-01, against Australia... Beating them 2-1 was fantastic... The one which left me most disappointed also features Australia — in 2003-04, when we dominated but couldn’t force a win in Sydney... Instead of 1-1, that series should’ve been ours.
One of the highpoints of your career has been sharing the dressing room with Sachin. What have you learnt from him?
The way he prepares for a match... Sharing space with such a great takes your own game to another level... I’ve got a lot of support from him throughout my career.
Besides Sachin, is there another batsman you’ve admired?
Brian Lara, another great.
What’s the next level for Team India?
Being consistently good in Test cricket.
Lastly, could we see you as the India coach at some point in time?
(Laughs) If I’m offered the job... I wouldn’t mind, not in the immediate future, but possibly after five years or so.

'If you believe you can do something, nobody can stop you'
Source: Telegraph India     

: Another day of Test cricket has passed and, so, it’s a day closer to the end of Sourav Ganguly’s career. The former India captain, who registered his 16th Test hundred on Saturday, spoke to The Telegraph late that evening.
The following are excerpts
Q In terms of emotions, what’s your state in the end-overs of your innings as an India cricketer?
A The thought that I’ll be missing cricket isn’t there... I prepared myself mentally before making my decision public, it’s not that I decided to quit on an impulse... I’m ready for life after cricket... I don’t regret having decided to retire.
Was it an easy decision?
It wasn’t... I’d be lying if I said it was an easy one... At the same time, I’ve always maintained that there’s more to life than cricket... Except for one series (in Sri Lanka), I’ve performed all the time in the last two years, after my comeback... My hundreds and fifties have come against quality bowling attacks... Australia, South Africa, Pakistan, England...
Getting dropped for the Irani Trophy is what crushed you...
It did... If the selection committee hadn’t changed, I probably wouldn’t have been in Mohali...
What’s the legacy you’ll be leaving?
Not just me, the other four seniors — Sachin, Kumble, Rahul and Laxman — as well... I think all of us have changed the notion that Indians are poor travellers... We’ve helped put together wins overseas and that, I feel, will be our lasting legacy. That I’ve played a role in quite a few wins overseas is a matter of huge personal satisfaction.
You’ve chosen not to list your grit… The fighting qualities...
Well... What I can’t understand is why people are calling this (series) another comeback... I’d just been ignored for the Irani Trophy... I’ve been a (Test) regular ever since my comeback at the Wanderers (December 2006)... Yes, I’ve been a fighter and, even when I wasn’t doing well, I didn’t allow my confidence to fall.
What have you learnt most in the dozen-plus years as a Test cricketer?
(After a pause) No. 1 that if you believe you can do something, nobody can stop you... If you’re lacking in belief, then no matter who is there to support you, you won’t be able to do anything.
Have you too looked to convert the stones thrown at you into milestones?
At some point in your career, you will be criticised... There will be people around to make adverse comments, but it’s important not to lose self-belief and confidence... Obviously, you’ve got to be mentally tough as well.
One assumes you’ll be part of the media, specifically TV, once you’re through with cricket...
I won’t do any commentary full-time... I’ve been on the road for over 12 years and need to spend time with the family... Besides, I’ve got my business to look after. My commentary work, I suppose, will be limited to a big series or a major tournament.
Finally, today, what would be your message to emerging cricketers?
Be disciplined and stay focused. The rewards will follow

'I think I have taken the right decision'
Source: Telegraph India      
Calcutta: It’s tough to call it a day, more so when one has been a stellar performer for over a decade. Sourav Ganguly, though, sounded reasonably relaxed when The Telegraph got through to him (at the Grand Ashok in Bangalore) some 45 minutes after his stunning decision.
The following are excerpts:
Q For somebody so emotional, you showed little emotion in making such a big announcement. Did the decision to retire at the end of the Australia series actually come easy?
A (After a pause) It did, in the sense that I’d prepared myself... It’s not something that I decided to do this (Tuesday) morning...
But why two days before the series?
I just wanted it off my back... I can understand the feelings of well-wishers, but I think I’ve taken the right decision. At the right time too. (After a pause) I couldn’t have carried on playing like this (always being under scrutiny)... I hope you’ll understand.
How did you feel when you left the media conference after going public with your decision?
Felt light.
When did you first think of quitting?
Last month, the day (September 8) I wasn’t picked for the Irani Trophy... Leaving cricket was on my mind from that afternoon...
Your failure in Chennai (India A versus New Zealand A) played no part in your decision...
Oh, no... Even a hundred in a match which precedes a Test doesn’t guarantee anything... Chennai had absolutely nothing to do with this decision.
When did you tell your family, particularly Dona?
Probably a week or so ago... Could be 10 days.
Where decisions go, this one has been huge...
It’s big, yes, but as I’ve told you, I took it at the right time.
By saying you wanted it ‘off your back’, you’ve indicated that the pressure of having to perform got to you. Do you agree?
The pressure bit is always there...
But didn’t (Test captain) Anil Kumble’s strong support last week make you feel comfortable?
It did... I’m thankful to Anil... He spoke the truth (rubbishing talk of a deal).
People may still say a deal was struck between you and the Board...
They can say what they like... If I had to strike a deal, I would have done so before the Rest squad for the Irani Trophy was selected. Why after that?
What did Kumble tell you when you informed him of your decision?
He said it was my call.
You also spoke to chief selector Krishnamachari Srikkanth...
He too felt the call was mine.
So, is the pressure off now?
One kind of pressure is off and I’ll now be able to concentrate on the first Test (beginning Thursday) and the rest of the series.
What are your plans for the evening?
Nothing, really… There’s a team dinner (at the hotel itself), that’s about it.
How do you look back on your career?
Happy with the achievements...
Not even what happened during the Kiran More-Greg Chappell era, in 2005-06?
I don’t wish to waste my time talking about More... As for Chappell, I have nothing to say.
How much thought have you given to life after cricket?
Today, I wouldn’t like to think of anything except the series which isn’t many hours away… I wouldn’t like the focus to get affected.
The last one: Given your contribution to Indian cricket, in different roles, are you satisfied with the treatment meted out by the Establishment and sections of the media?
(Pauses) I’ll answer this once the series and my career is over. For now, I’m not saying anything more.

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