While the captaincy saga surrounding the limited-overs team continues to unfold with different sides coming up with conflicting versions, few have started targeting BCCI President and legend of Indian cricket Sourav Ganguly. The same cricketer who laid the foundation of India’s current success and giant status on the global cricketing map.
The dark ages of Indian cricket
The year was 1999 and Indian cricket had tainted itself when high profile names like Ajay Jadeja, Nayan Mongia, and former skipper Mohammad Azharuddin were found in the middle of the fixing scandal. They were accused of taking bribes to underperform.
The fans had lost faith in the team and every tiny action of the team was put under the microscope. A dropped chance and instant calls were raised to investigate the entire match. Sachin Tendulkar took on the interim job but could not emulate the same dizzying heights he had achieved with the willow in his bat.
Sourav Ganguly – the monk staring the eye of the storm
The board scurried around and landed on Sourav Ganguly – a stylish left-hand bat youngster who had made his debut some eight years ago but made a stunning comeback in 1996 at Manchester, bamboozling everyone with his audacious strokeplay. It was a gamble but Ganguly was up for the task.
Ganguly instantly brought discipline, unity, and a killer spirit to the broken and dilapidated team. And he started doing it by dissolving the factions. The deadwood players like Mongia and Jadeja were let go. Azharuddin was left stranded on 99 Tests while Ganguly continued to blood new talent in the side.
Prior to assuming the role of captaincy, the Indian team was perhaps a mediocre side who were famous for being known as ‘kings’ at home and an indecisive and hesitant unit outside the country.
It is a known fact how Sourav successfully created a strong unit of players who were no longer afraid to take on challenges outside the Indian subcontinent; thus forming the Team India.
Backing the youngsters
Another factor of his leadership skills was his ability to scout raw talent and pick up young players who would successfully go on to be a part of a world-class team. Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra, Mohammad Kaif, Virender Sehwag – they were all handpicked by the Prince of Kolkata.
Many were confused by his tactics for backing youngsters incessantly when old guards sat outside. However, unperturbed by the criticism, Ganguly stuck with his decision, and the entire nation reaped dividends for it.
Speaking about his formula, Ganguly once said, “I picked talented players from all parts of the country. And I backed them and gave them enough space. The main thing was taking the fear of failure and insecurity away from them,”
The NatWest series final of 2002 was a landmark in Indian cricket as Yuvraj and Kaif scripted a victory from a hopeless situation. However, all paled in front of the iconic shirt waving by Ganguly on the historic balcony of Lords.
That image inspired and continues to inspire the cricketing generation of the country. The victory at Adelaide, sharing the Champions Trophy in 2002, reaching the final of the 2003 World Cup, beating Pakistan in Pakistan — Dada gave the nation, alien to the feeling of winning outside, numerous instances of celebration.
Knowing his place and knowing that no one was greater than the team
Under Azharuddin, India’s win percentage was a miser 29.79 per cent which further plummeted to 16 per cent under Tendulkar. However, Ganguly raised the bar and took it to 42.86 per cent.
Ganguly’s reason for success was knowing his place and boundaries. He knew that a captain need not be bigger than the team. He man-managed the players. After all, when an individual comes through the ranks to play at the international level, there’s only so much one can do to fiddle with their game plan.
Ganguly backed players, gave them confidence, stuck with them till the very end and even when he was pushed out of the side in his later years – bowed out with dignity, without making a fuss.
Yada yada hi dharmasya… pic.twitter.com/rDr4CHE4ck
— Gabbbar (@GabbbarSingh) December 16, 2021
Ganguly understood that the team came first but with Kohli at the centre, it feels at times that he wants all the spotlight on himself, which necessarily is not a bad thing but cricket is a team sport at the end of the day.
One needs to trust the players and the choices of the board for the greater good. And with Kohli’s track record of dissent (Read: Anil Kumble’s unceremonious axing), one can assess whose version holds more water.
The current kerfuffle within Indian cricket is not the ideal situation and questions are being raised over the authority of Ganguly. However, before taking sides and hurling accusations, one should believe that the best man to take Indian cricket out of this mess is the one sitting at the top post. He has faced far worse and still managed to come out on top.