| Since the time I left India of all the dramas and controversies, the Sourav Ganguly saga has, for me, been the most compelling. Now he is off to the World Cup not as captain but, like his teammates, as just another cog in the wheel. I am off to the Cup too, this time to work for television, less stressful but less rewarding. |
Perhaps, it is difficult for me to be objective about Sourav because we worked closely together for nearly five years. The relationship between captain and coach is important. I know that Sourav and mine was debated but never quite understood by most-including the two of us. Captains and coaches must balance each other out, they must have trust, the right to disagree and in the end, a coach must respect the right of the captain to be his own man. This, Sourav surely was.
Sure there were times when I was certain the batteries in his watch had run out and that I needed to buy him some new ones. There must have been times when he thought, "I wish the bloody coach would stop whining about the over rate or the fielding and just shut up."
But our destinies were linked. We were both ambitious and wanted to be successful. As the Indian team's first foreign coach, I was desperate to prove to myself and others I could do the job. Sourav was the first Indian captain from Bengal, perhaps an unlikely choice in some eyes. Both of us liked to win and wanted to build a team where everybody felt they could contribute with their views and opinions.
What people didn't see was the number of times Sourav would have a cup of tea in his room with the players-particularly the younger ones-to check out if they were fitting in. We were different and the players knew that sometimes we had different views. But I respected his right to captain the way he wanted to and he respected my right to prepare the side my way. Even when we were poles apart on any issue, there was a mutual trust that we were trying to achieve the same thing-to win matches for India.
Today, after much controversy and a very hard time, Sourav is back in the team, he has shown us all and I am thrilled. I have an even greater respect for him. The loss of the captaincy is never an easy pill to take. The toughest times would have been watching the team on TV or reading in the papers about them winning without him.
There must have been self-doubt about whether it was all worth it. But he hung in and took the tougher route. His hunger to play for India can never be doubted now and perhaps more importantly Sourav has rediscovered his deep love for the game. Getting selected again may not have been easy, but how he performs now is critical.
In the one-day game, opening is his best spot and at the World Cup, India would do well to let him attack. If the wickets are slow and low, it will suit Sourav. If they are fast and bouncy, he needs to get his weight onto the front foot, his body angle and balance forward and be positive at all times.
I have watched him score hundreds at Newlands in South Africa and the Gabba in Australia; in both cases, he looked to dominate from the start.
This will be his last Cup and I would encourage him to score at least two more hundreds against the Aussies or South Africa. Sourav would probably prefer one against Pakistan. It would be more dramatic.
I am looking forward to watching him stroll nonchalantly out to bat. Taking guard like he would order a cup of tea. Noticing the time-and it won't be that long-before he signals the dressing room for the unfortunate 12th man who must lug his spare five bats to the middle so he can choose another. Keeping track of how often he checks his guard. I'm looking forward to watching him slowing up the game, infuriating his opponents because Sourav understands tempo.
Then there's his unique running between the wickets, almost like he's wondering why someone else can't do it for him. Best of all, I'm looking forward to sitting up when, out of the blue, it happens: the impossible shot played with little or no effort, the ball struck beautifully over the ropes and Sourav trudging to the middle of the wicket like nothing had happened.
India's former coach on his colourful captain and why Ganguly can make this Cup his own