Pietermaritzburg: Not that Sourav Ganguly has ever been effervescent, but the Indian captain has gone quieter. He is, after all, in the midst of a terribly demanding World Cup campaign.
In fact, all captains are under pressure ó a clear give away being their body-language.
Sourav, though, is determined to emerge a winner. That came through when he spoke to The Telegraph over dinner at the Golden Dragon Friday, incidentally his (and Donaís) sixth wedding anniversary.
The following are excerpts
Q This World Cup has been tough on captains... From Shaun Pollock to Nasser Hussain to Sourav Ganguly... How human are captains'
A (Laughs) We are very much human, with the same failings and gifts. Itís just that thereís lots more on our plate... More things to do...
Q Is it more difficult for an Indian captain'
A Definitely, because unnecessary hassles go with the job. Like what' Iíd rather not spell them out, as that could start a controversy. Suffice to say that the Indian captaincy comes with unnecessary baggage.
Q Youíre a few days from completing three years as captain. Whatís been the overriding emotion in this period'
A Itís a tough one... (After a pause) What I can say is that Team India has improved. Weíve played a lot in the past three years and, irrespective of what happened in New Zealand, we are now a much better side. Overall, the highs have been more than the lows. Given the amount weíve played, thatís cause for some satisfaction.
Q Has captaincy changed you'
A Has made me grow older... Now, when I look at the mirror, I see that the hair isnít all black.
Q But have you aged or matured'
A I suppose both. The maturity bit has certainly been reflected on the field... Iíve learnt to handle situations better, my response to tight moments has improved.
Q Do captains have a shelf-life'
A As I see it, depends on the individual... Depends on whether or not he can handle the pressure of captaincy...
Q Have you been getting time to switch off cricket'
A Am I getting the time to relax' No... Probably complicates things but, then, that goes with the captaincy. One canít complain... When the family isnít around, itís music, eating out and the TV which comes as some relief.
Q What gives you the most strength'
A Self-belief... Iíve had my share of lows yet, after a bad day, I wake up a stronger person. At this level, a lack of self-belief will be disastrous.
Q Have the past two months taught you something'
A That Iíve got to work harder. Also, that I shouldnít forget the months immediately preceding New Zealand, when we did well. At the end of the day, one has to be positive and draw strength from the better moments.
Q Do you continue to be inspired by Steve Waugh'
A Absolutely... Some months back, I spoke to you about his terrific hundred in Sharjah (versus Pakistan). Then, last month, he had that great hundred in the Sydney Test... Steve doesnít succumb to pressure, but uses that to go one notch higher. In my opinion, heís a huge inspiration for all sportsmen, not only cricketers.
Q Has being religious also provided succour'
A Iíve been around for seven years and that wouldnít have been possible had God not been looking after me. (After a pause) Besides self-belief, what carries me is imm ense faith in God.
Q Today, are you more sensitive to criticism'
A Not really... But, yes, Iíve always drawn a line between criticism which is justified and criticism which is driven by motive.
Q Are you forgiving'
A Very much so.
Q So, you wonít have problems interacting with someone who has been critical with a motive'
A If he is cordial, Iíll reciprocate.
Q Frankly, can a few sessions with a Sandy Gordon really be of help'
A If time is limited, one has to make do with whatever is available... Sandy is good and Iím sure his suggestions will help... The one point he constantly made is that no sportsman can stay away from the lows. Also, that the thinking must be positive.
Q To talk of this World Cup... What are your impressions of the tournament'
A Itís going to begin peaking from next week... So far, it has largely gone in the expected manner.
Q Has the teamsí approach been on expected lines'
A Yes, because itís the World Cup and no captain wishes to gamble. A failed move can, after all, have drastic consequences. The risk is too high.
Q Do you too worry about moves not coming off'
A That fear is always there.
Q Any specific regret'
A Not playing both spinners in the Lordís Test last year. [Only the experienced Anil Kumble was fielded, with Harbhajan Singh assigned a seat in the dressing room.]
Q And, the one move which has satisfied you the most'
A Getting Rahul to íkeep and having Sachin bat at No. 4, in the ODIs. Itís another matter that Sachin is back to opening ó but, thatís because I wasnít getting runs.
Q The last question: Just how much of a danger do teams like Namibia pose'
A (Smiles) They can be very dangerous... Not just hot or cold, they can vary from being fire and ice... Does the lack of inputs seriously affect planning' Well, if weíve got to plan to beat Holland, Canada and Namibia, then we shouldnít be in the World Cup! Our approach has to be simple: Back our strength and play the way we want to play.