Red carpet was rolled out at Eden Gardens for Sourav Ganguly as he returned from Mumbai after filing his nomination for the BCCI president’s post. And as the BCCI president-elect arrived at the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), things became chaotic. It felt like a throwback to 1996, when the ‘Prince of Calcutta’ had returned home after scoring back-to-back hundreds in his debut Test series. Ganguly, however, described his century at Lord’s on his Test debut “30 times bigger than this”.
He took charge of the Indian team as its captain at the turn of the century, when Indian cricket was going through an upheaval in the wake of the match-fixing scandal. His leadership changed the Indian team. Along the way, Ganguly had put huge emphasis on winning overseas. As the BCCI president, is he satisfied with the way the current team performs away from home? According to him, India not winning an ICC tournament for the last six years is an area that needs to be addressed.
“I think it’s (India’s performance abroad) satisfactory and we have a very good side. My only thing is that we need to win big tournaments. I’m not saying they will win every time. It’s not possible. But they have gone through seven big tournaments without winning one; they are much better side than that. That’s the only area where they need to get themselves ready mentally. Talent is enormous, otherwise they couldn’t have played so well in the World Cup till the semifinals. So that’s an issue which Virat needs to address. And that doesn’t happen in the boardroom,” Ganguly said.
India won the 2013 Champions Trophy but they have faltered in the knockouts at the ICC events since. Between the lines, there was a message to the team management.
Ganguly also had a message for Wriddhiman Saha, who wowed the pundits and fans alike with his ‘keeping in the Pune Test against South Africa. Kohli called his stumper the best in the world and few would argue. But Ganguly wants the Bengal ‘keeper-batsman to be equally good in front of the wicket, if he wants to play 100 Tests.
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“I’m extremely happy that he (Saha) does well behind the stumps. But my suggestion to him is that in front of the stumps he should score a lot many runs. His wicket-keeping will never be doubted. (But) if he wants to play 100 Tests, he will have to score a lot more runs. He is our own boy. I wish him the best. Hopefully, in the third Test he will get a hundred.”
An emergency-like situation
He is taking charge of the BCCI at a time, when the cricket board’s functioning needs to be streamlined after nearly three years of the CoA rule. The former India captain called it an emergency-like situation.
“When I became the India captain, the team was going through a difficult phase. Now also, the administration is going through a major crisis for three years. It’s actually an emergency, as I have said before, and I’m happy to get the responsibility to turn it around. That’s what matters. When it is tough, people believe that you are good enough to do it. That’s my biggest responsibility.”
Last year, when West Indies came here, the BCCI acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary wanted the first Test at Rajkot to be a day-night affair. The Committee of Administrators (CoA) vetoed it, as according to them, players were reluctant. Ganguly, however, has always been a supporter of day-night Tests. After taking charge of the CAB, he brought in pink-ball games in local cricket. With him helming Indian cricket now, is there a chance that India would finally embrace day-night Tests?
“Let’s see. Before talking to the team management, this needs the approval of the BCCI members. But I always believe that’s the way forward in Test cricket. Games are being played before empty stands,” Ganguly said.
Last year, Kohli had criticised the quality of the SG ball, that is used for home Tests. “To have a ball scuffed up in five overs is not something that we have seen before,” the India captain had said. The MCC’s cricket committee, with Ganguly on board, proposed standardisation of the red ball. The BCCI president-elect, however, dropped a hint that India would continue to have the SG ball for home Tests.
“When I was the India captain, the SG ball came in. The spinners wouldn’t let the SG ball get off their hands. And Virat Kohli will face the same problem. Ravi Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep will not let him change the SG ball.”
Ganguly reiterated his stand on the conflict-of-interest and how it is important for Indian cricket to have legends like Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid contributing to the game. He also mentioned how the BCCI is struggling to fill up the IPL governing council posts, because members are “reluctant” to give up their positions in their respective state associations.
The question with regards to his meeting with the Union Home Minister Amit Shah and if that had any political undertone, with an eye to the 2021 Assembly polls in Bengal, came in due course. “You must have seen Amit Shah’s tweet yesterday and he has said very rightly. Not once has he said we will do this for doing that… You have got to give respect to that,” Ganguly contended, adding: “I have heard these political questions before, when I met Mamata Didi, the chief minister, and you have seen the results. I met Amit Shah for the first time ever. The questions were different. Neither was I asked a question on what’s going to happen to the BCCI; whether I’m going to get a post or not. Neither was there any discussion of that sort (joining BJP) happened; that you only get this if we agree to that.”