'I have never wanted to prove to anybody except myself'

Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2003, 18:23 [IST]
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Johannesburg: Indian captain Saurav Ganguly, in the midst of an upsurge in his fortunes, believes he is successful because he has not stopped believing in himself.

"I know I am a performer and have a record as good as anyone around. I just stick to my game. The rest of the things do not bother me," said Ganguly whose batting form in this World Cup is second only to the irrepressible Sachin Tendulkar and whose captaincy has inspired his largely young team to a place in the semi-finals.

Ganguly has already struck two hundreds in the competition and amassed 327 runs from eight games at an average of 54.50, second only to Tendulkar's 571 from eight games at an average of 71.37.

"I believe if you are good, you will always perform. If you have quality in you, it can never be suppressed," said Ganguly whose career is dotted with instances of fighting against the odds.

"I am playing well when it is required and that is the important thing. I have never wanted to prove to anybody. Only to myself whether I am good enough to do things. That has been the key to my whole approach," he said in an exclusive interview.

The Indians invited the wrath of fans back home for their tame start to the World Cup, characterised by a crushing loss to Australia, which even had the media baying for the blood of Ganguly and his men.

Ganguly explains, "It was at the start of the tournament and too early for us to put our heads down. It is exactly what has happened. Half of the team members were not worried. Half of them do not know what goes around (in the media)."

Since then the Indians have prevailed against all-comers and as well as batsmen have done, Ganguly believes the fast bowlers have played no less a role.

"When we got to 250 against Zimbabwe, we defended. We defended a 250 against England. I think our seam bowlers have bowled superbly. Both Zaheer and Srinath have an economy rate of below four runs per over. So is Harbhajan and Anil Kumble and even Ashish Nehra is only marginally over," the captain said.

"To do so on wickets which generally have favoured batsmen is an outstanding effort," he added.

Well as his bowlers have bowled, Ganguly has come in for great praise for the way he has juggled his fifth bowlers' quota or the way he trusted only his troika of fast bowlers to finish off the Lankan batting.

"I have learnt on the job that no captain will be outstanding straightaway. I am now in the saddle for nearly 100 One-dayers and 30 Tests. I have now learnt to handle different situations on the ground. I am not saying I have notmade mistakes. Sometimes you wonder whether you have brought on somebody early or in the 40th or 35th over. But such doubts are true with all captains," the stylish left-hander said.

Ganguly likes to get his team on to the field with a target in mind. Every player is assigned a role and it does not bother him how a cricketer goes about achieving it.

"We go into the field with a target but it keeps changing. Players are also assigned roles. I just tell them the runs I want at a certain stage. How you get is your problem. I cannot ask somebody to hit out every ball because it might not be his game. He might still find his way to get six an over," he said.

"The same is true with bowlers who are given full liberty with the field they want. Only they must bowl according to captain's requirement of whether to defend or attack.

"When they start, I give them the field they want because I want them to be comfortable. Many a time I do not agree but I still give them the field. Only I make my intentions clear whether I am trying to attack or defend," Ganguly said.

Ganguly's team allows individuals to express their opinions and he says it is important to involve everyone for the team's good.

"I encourage them and they do express themselves. It is the sign of a healthy team.

"No way a team can survive on one person. It is my job to encourage people to speak. At the end of the day it is all eleven who will win you a game," he said.

Ganguly has also sacrificed his own interest at times in order to help the team do better.

"I am coming at number three but it is no different really from the number one spot. Veeru (Virender Sehwag) is a different player at the start of the innings. Tendulkar has over 500 runs in eight games which is terrific. He still has at least two if not three innings in the competition. I have adjusted to number three. The team should win at the end of the day," he said.

Ganguly draws sustenance from his family and accepts all those good luck charms which his religious mother ordains for him.

"I do not know what is there (in the pendant) but if I take it off I would be in trouble. All kinds of things are there -- stones, flowers, taveez etc. It is a great family, a joint family and every kid in the family is spoilt," hechuckles.

Ganguly, now in the middle of his second World Cup, is compelled to compare the Indian teams for the last World Cup and the current one. He finds the present team a rather special one.

"It is a much better unit, we are working as a team, the bowling attack is better and fielding is definitely so.

"I was part of the World Cup in England where we could not go beyond Super Six. Now we are in the semi-finals and it is a huge honour for all of us," he said.

"There are right vibes which go around in the dressing room. It is the team which comes first rather than individuals. We are all together. There is a lot of time which we spend together. The boys do want to stick together,"according to Ganguly.

Irrespective of what happens in the next 10 days, Ganguly predicts a lot of careers would blossom once the 2003 World Cup is over.

"It is a young side and once the World Cup finishes, I guess a lot of careers would blossom," said Ganguly, now himself at the peak as the leader of a resurgent team.


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