| A tale of two shirts: Sourav Ganguly changed his shirt after the disastrous defeat to Australia
For Sourav Ganguly, the moment of truth is at hand. Only the second captain (after Kapil Dev) to lead India to a World Cup final, the pressure is enormous. Yet, Sourav ó who spoke to The Telegraph at the Sandton Sun & Towers Intercontinental Saturday morning ó isnít getting overwhelmed by the occasion. Excerpts:
Q. Emotionally, how are you placed just hours away from your biggest day'
A. Iím fine... As Iím captain, Sunday will be more special... Having said that, this isnít the time to get overwhelmed by emotions. Weíve done very well to get thus far. Now, weíve got to do better and win the World Cup.
Surely, your mental preparation must be a little different'
I wouldnít say so... Iíve been keeping myself calm... Have been trying not to get too worked up. After all, if that does happen, then the risk of erring with the basics is high.
Fair enough, but what about your teamís (mental) preparation'
The boys are keeping it simple... In fact, our last team meeting will be pretty routine as I donít wish to add to the obvious pressure by proposing anything new. Of course, we will be looking back on the eight wins (in succession) and drawing inspiration.
Arenít the bigger games approached differently'
But the pressure element remains the same... The good thing is weíve reached the finals of the last two mini World Cups (Nairobi and Colombo) and, so, the boys are on familiar terrain.
How do you handle pressure'
By focussing on what I need to do as captain and batsman... Captaining India isnít an easy job and, if anything, can get tougher if routine pressure canít be handled.
Looking back, on the past six weeks, has there been one turning point for Team India'
(After a pause) Overall, weíve played outstanding cricket... However, if Iíve got to pick one, it would probably be Nehraís spell against England. We needed to win that match (in Durban) and he ripped England apart (six for 23). That victory put us on a high and, in the very next game, we thrashed Pakistan.
But, there have been other fine performances....
(Interrupting) Each one of us has put in that extra bit... Each one of us has shown the hunger to win the biggest prize in cricket... I salute everybody.
Frankly, how much of a chance did you give yourself after the horror show in New Zealand'
Knowing that conditions (in South Africa) would be very different, I was hopeful. I knew New Zealand wouldnít be repeated, that the changed conditions would set right many of the ills.
Post New Zealand, you must have worked on your batting as well'
I didnít lose faith in my own ability, didnít stop backing myself. Having played for seven years, I knew I would come out of the rough patch. (Adds after pausing) At this level, if you donít back yourself, you are finished. Indeed, the higher you go, more the pressure. So, youíve got to keep backing yourself.
What gives you the strength when the going isnít smooth'
Self-belief, confidence... The family and God... I know God wonít be unkind and I keep reminding myself that if I could deliver in the past, I can deliver in the present as well.
Have the past six weeks taught you something'
To never give up... To never take anything for granted... Had I and the team given up after the defeat in Centurion (Australia), we wouldnít now have been in Johannesburg.
Will the No.24 on your shirt stay for good'
(Laughs) For now, yes... As Iíve told you, Iíve been wearing that at a friendís suggestion and the change (from 99) has already brought me three centuries.
Getting Sachin Tendulkar to make that ďwe-won't-give-upĒ promise, in Harare, was quite extraordinary...
Well, Sachin spoke because he is the biggest name around... We didnít want a repeat of the incidents which affected Rahul and Kaif...
The last question: Will life change Sunday evening onwards'
It wonít... I wish we can take the World Cup but, come what may, life wonít change.