The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Best way to counter pressure is to focus on what you are expected to do: Sourav

The demands on India’s most happening captain are far too many to be counted. From inaugurations to felicitations to honouring commitments of personal sponsors — not to speak of plotting Team India’s strategy — Sourav Ganguly has little time to spare. The captain, however, did make himself available to The Telegraph for some 45 minutes on the eve of the third and final Test.

The following are excerpts

On his earliest cricket-related memory

Going to the Eden, as a four-year-old during the 1976 Test against England, and crying when asked to pose with Tony Greig! I was petrified.

On whether he actually nursed an ambition

Not that I can remember… Of course, being blessed with everything, by God’s grace, I was a happy child.

On whether, coming from a family deeply into business, his love for sport (cricket and soccer) was frowned upon

No… My father (Chandi), for one, was associated with the CAB and, then, my brother (Snehashish) was already into cricket. Father, especially, was keen I be involved with sport — initially, I was obsessed with soccer. (Adds laughing) Except tending to the goal, I probably played in all positions…

On what prompted him to focus full-time on cricket

Being selected and doing well for the India colts against Pakistan (1989-90)…

On his probable vocation had he not made it big in cricket

Difficult to say… The family business, perhaps… I was quite good at studies and, so, could even have taken up a job somewhere.

On being the unconventional sort

But, then, what exactly is being conventional' Also, who defines what is unconventional'

On quietly marrying Dona, despite opposition from both families

(Laughs again) Doesn’t make me a rebel…

On whether he would be conscious about having had a most comfortable upbringing

Wouldn’t ever compare… Never thought of myself as being privileged or whatever.

On what money means to him

Security… It’s important and I won’t pretend it isn’t. At the same time, I don’t have an extravagant lifestyle.

On whether he finds time for charitable causes

Though I’m associated with a few organisations, our hectic schedule comes in the way of devoting much time… Specifically, my wife and I are closely involved with an NGO project for homeless mothers and children… We’ve been doing our bit for a couple of years.

On whether our cricketers should be doing more for the underprivileged

Look, quite a few of us are involved with charities… Sachin, Rahul, Anil… In their own way, somebody or the other is doing something.

On how he would describe himself

It’s tough, don’t think I can… I’m not the outgoing type… I learn from experiences… As I’ve said, it’s a difficult one to answer.

On his inspiration outside cricket

Pete Sampras… His attitude, the quality of his play… His ability to fight back the heaviest of odds… Even if Sampras doesn’t add to 14 Grand Slam titles, he will remain a great sportsman.

On the most inspirational cricketer

Steve Waugh… I have the highest regard and was very happy when he got that hundred (28th) in Sharjah last week… Under pressure, it was another brilliant knock… I can only endorse Steve’s observation that statistics don’t always tell the full story.

On what he has learnt from Sampras and Steve

Never to give up.

On what cricket has taught him

That sport is such a leveller… I’ve seen the highs and lows… The on-field experiences have helped make me a better person… It’s been an extraordinary education.

On being a calmer captain now

(Smiles) It’s easier when the team’s doing well, that’s when a captain is more in control… That’s when he comes through as being calm. Also, I suppose (daughter) Sana’s birth has made a difference… In some ways, I’ve changed.

On being conscious about averages

I was, at one time, but realised that put pressure… Today, I’m not unduly taken up by averages.

On what helped him get over that slump in 2001

The conviction that it would only be a phase, that I would emerge stronger… Of course, as you must have seen yourself, I worked very hard too. If you ask me, self-belief makes a huge difference.

On destiny

Plays a role, yes, but it would be foolish to leave everything to destiny. You can’t, for instance, merely talk of something being destined to happen — you’ve also got to work towards it.

On being religious

That’s the way I’ve been brought up… Every puja, for example, is a big affair at home… An extension is that on Tuesdays and Saturdays I’m a vegetarian.

On handling criticism

Criticism is perfectly okay if it’s fair and not personal. If it isn’t, then… Really, one can’t tolerate crap and vindictive criticism.

On one-time critics embracing him

I can’t answer why people change… (After a pause) As for me, I’m not the sort to wake up thinking I ought to have done something differently the previous evening.

On whether chartbusters alone help him unwind

There’s Sana and (niece) Sneha… When I’m with them, I switch off cricket… When I switch back on, I’m fresh. Off the field, they remain my focus.

On whether the lack of much privacy is a high price for stardom

At times, it does get difficult… One does miss doing certain things though. Just the other day, I could stop at an ill-lit corner in New Alipore and help myself to puchkas.

On his advice on handling pressure

Once you are exposed to pressure day in and day out, you actually get used to it… Becomes part of your system… Indeed, the best way of countering pressure is to focus on what you are expected to do.

On the chemistry between him and the state’s chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee

(Smiles again) Well, Buddhababu has an enormous interest in cricket… While I obviously don’t know much about politics, it’s pretty apparent that Buddhababu is determined to make Bengal a better place… Our state needs somebody like him.

Finally, on chances of doing an Imran Khan

Absolutely none… I don’t have the mental make-up of a politician.

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