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Sourav is already a winner
- The process of learning never stops for the Indian captain

Calcutta, Sept. 28: At a time when the Player Terms row couldn’t have got hotter, an autograph-seeker at London’s St James Crowne Plaza ‘stumped’ Sourav Ganguly in the hotel’s lobby.

The Indian captain, preparing for an outing with the family, was momentarily taken aback by a rather innocuous question: “What will you do if the best team isn’t sent for the Champions Trophy'”

Recovering quickly, he responded smiling: “Instead of cricket, I’ll then busy myself playing with (daughter) Sana!”

An unconventional answer but, then, Sourav isn’t your conventional captain either. He has, after all, re-drawn the rules and the top gainer remains Indian cricket.

That lobby-encounter was four days before the tournament got underway (September 12). Today, the captain many love to hate, is just hours from what could be his finest moment in one-day cricket.

[Incidentally, Sunil Gavaskar, who hasn’t in the past hesitated to take Sourav to the cleaners, had this to say after India’s heart-stopping win over South Africa: “Even his worst detractors will now have to admit there’s something about his leadership that makes his players play above themselves.”]

Actually, irrespective of tomorrow’s result against Sri Lanka, the captain is already a winner. Having come through the most demanding weeks of his captaincy — ever since the Terms controversy surfaced — the verdict can’t be any different.

For his part, however, Sourav chose to play down the stress and strain he has himself gone through. “I think I coped with it well enough,” is all he said this afternoon, that too somewhat reluctantly, when contacted by The Telegraph in Colombo.

If anything, the captain has matured. Had something similar occurred at the start of his tenure (March 2000), he would have dwelt on the many odds and the hassles of leading India.

While Sourav chose not to talk of events leading up to the Champions Trophy, there were moments when he would have happily traded places with a nine-to-five executive.

Apparently, Board president Jagmohan Dalmiya felt the captain ought to be “persuading” the seniors (who spearheaded the no-signing-the-Terms campaign) to “see reason.”

Equally, the seniors subtly let it be known that he “always” had to be in the “forefront.” Frankly, Sourav experienced four weeks (beginning with the last day of the Trent Bridge Test) of near hell.

Yet, it’s that period which saw India pull off the most emphatic win overseas (at Headingley, by an innings and 46 runs). Obviously, the entire team deserves credit, but a thicker slice has to go to the No.1 guy.

No Indian captain has had more Test victories (five) overseas, not to speak of no one having been more passionate. But, as Sourav is forever quick to remind, “the learning never stops.”

The lessons of the past few weeks, coupled with Team India’s seemingly effortless (and amazing) rising-above-the-script act, can only boost the build-up to cricket’s most ambitious event-ever: The 2003 World Cup.

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