Indian team in safe hands, says Ganguly

Published: Tuesday, November 11, 2008, 13:06 [IST]
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Batsman Sourav Ganguly ended his illustrious international career here on Monday on a contented note, saying he saw a bright future for Indian cricket.

The 36-year-old former captain, who had already announced he would quit after the Australia series, will always be known for transforming India into a formidable unit at home as well as away, backing youngsters and defying odds.

"He (new captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni) has done very well so far," said Ganguly, once described by team-mate Rahul Dravid as "God of the off-side" for his fluent and flawless driving.

"His wins in the Twenty20 World Championships in South Africa (2007), in Australia (early this year) and beating Australia here show he has got the ability to take Indian cricket forward.

"Captaincy is a spark. It's not just preparations. You must have the spark on the field and I think he has that. He has got that extra bit of luck which you require in captaincy."

Ganguly was the most successful Indian captain with 21 wins in 49 Tests. He scored 7,212 runs in 113 Tests and 11,363 runs in 311 one-day internationals in a career spanning more than a decade.

When asked whether he would be remembered for his captaincy or batting or making comebacks, Ganguly said: "All three. It will be very difficult to separate one from the other."

Ganguly was named captain in 2000 when Indian cricket was passing through a testing time following a match-fixing scandal. It was a tribute to his mental toughness that he helped restore the game's credibility in the country.

His best as captain came when former New Zealand opener John Wright was appointed as the first foreign coach of the team in 2000. The duo steadily helped India shed the image of "lions at home and lambs abroad."

They were the key in halting a record 16-Test winning streak of Steve Waugh's Australians at home in 2001.

Two years later, the Ganguly-led India stormed into the World Cup final in South Africa for the first time in two decades before losing to Australia.

"It's not just me since I have always believed a captain is as good as his team. It's about the raising of Indian cricket's image in the world," said Ganguly, who scored 16 Test centuries and 22 one-day hundreds.

"In the phase from 2000 to 2005 and even now, Indian cricket's image has gone up. We were seen as a soft touring side. It has changed considerably. I think we are a formidable side at home and away.

"It has been a fantastic journey. I am happy with the way things have gone. If anybody had told me I would go through all this, I wouldn't have believed. But God has been kind to me and I have been able to finish off with a win."

India won the four-Test series against Australia 2-0 here with a 172-run victory.

"It's been satisfying to get a century in my first Test (against England at Lord's in 1996) and building a team which has helped take Indian cricket forward," he said.

Controversies chased Ganguly from his first one-day international in 1992 to his last Test, but without overshadowing his excellent on-field performances.

He was removed as captain in 2005 following a spat with coach Greg Chappell, but continued to serve as a batsman under different captains.

"I have had questions asked right through my career. I am happy that I have overcome all of them and am here today because of my ability and toughness," said Ganguly.

"Let's keep the controversy away. The Greg Chappell issue is over. Let's not bring that again. Let's respect him. Let's respect whatever has happened.

"My best series will always be against Australia in 2001 (home) and 2003-04 (away). We have won at other places as well, in Pakistan, the West Indies and England, but these two series will be my best."

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