India~~s Ganguly hopes to do a Fleming in New Zealand

Published: Wednesday, December 11, 2002, 22:00 [IST]
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Wellington: Saurav Ganguly just has to look at his New Zealand counterpart Stephen Fleming to draw inspiration in a bid to become the most successful Indian captain in Test cricket. Fleming has already added this feather to his cap, having led his team to a New Zealand record of 17 wins in 47 Tests since taking over the captaincy from Lee Germon in 1996-97. Ganguly, 30, is just one Test win away from equalling Mohammad Azharuddin's Indian record of 14 victories. He has so far scored 4,071 runs in 65 Tests with nine centuries. He is also looking forward to winning the two-Test series against New Zealand, for that will enable India to clinch the first Test series outside the sub-continent in 16 years. "We want to win a Test series abroad. This is my aim. If we win a series here, I'll equal or set the Indian record. Things are changing in recent years as we have won Tests in Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and the West Indies. We now hope to win the series here," Ganguly said ahead of Thursday's opening Test against the host. Fleming, with 4,217 runs in 71 Tests with four hundreds, was in the same boat when he became captain aged 23. He needed nearly three seasons to lead his team to the first overseas Test series win, against England in 1999. Ganguly is now in his third season without an away Test series victory, though he came close to achieving it in 30 matches as captain. It is a tribute to Ganguly's leadership qualities that he has managed to make the country believe that he can fulfil a long-cherished dream. Self-belief is what the current Indian and New Zealand teams owe to their captains, who donned the mantle in unexpected, but testing, conditions. Both took time to gain complete control over things. Fleming took over after Germon had been axed for the last Test against England at home in 1996-97, while Ganguly replaced Sachin Tendulkar who stepped down after a two-Test home series against South Africa in 2000. Fleming was inexperienced, but turned out to be a fast learner as he kept improving with each match to eventually transform New Zealand into a confident and combative outfit. Australian leg spin wizard Shane Warne was not off the mark when he recently said Fleming was the best captain in the world. New Zealand produced quite a few stunning results under Fleming, beating England in 1999, winning the ICC Trophy the following year, drawing a tough three-Test series in Australia and winning 1-0 in the West Indies this year. Ganguly also has succeeded in moulding his team into a fighting unit after steering it through the turbulent times of betting and match-fixing. His greatest asset is backing his players to the hilt, as he has done with left-arm fast bowler Zaheer Khan, off spinner Harbhajan Singh and young One-day specialists Yuvraj Singh as well as Mohammed Kaif. All of them have now become integral parts of the squad. Yet, the southpaws are different characters. Ganguly likes a scrap. He does not mind letting his emotions run riot, much to the purists' annoyance. Some of the former Indian cricketers found it hard to swallow when they watched Ganguly take off his shirt after his team successfully chased 325 against England in the NatWest Trophy final at Lord's this year. Observers believe Fleming will not betray his emotions so easily, though he is as deeply involved in the game as the Indian. He is cool, calculated and always trying to think a step or two ahead of his counterpart.

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