Sourav Ganguly during a media conference in Melbourne on Monday. (AFP)
Melbourne: Sourav Ganguly is neither the captain on this tour nor is he Team Indias senior-most pro. However, in the build-up to the latest Test series, he remains the most talked about.
Sourav, who will make his 100th Test appearance on Wednesday, spoke to the media on Monday afternoon. Later, he also had a brief one-on-one with The Telegraph.
The following are excerpts
On the forthcoming Test series
Australia is a good side, but weve played well against them... Were probably the only team to have competed with them home and away... If you look at the records over the past six years, youll see weve beaten Australia... Theyre tough, but weve got the side to play well.
On Team India winning overseas in recent years
Most of the boys in this team have seen success abroad... They know what it means to win overseas... They know theyve got to put runs on the board...
On the difference between the side which toured Australia in 2003-04, under his captaincy, and the one this time
Then, we had a weak attack... Weve probably got a better bowling attack this time and, with (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni coming at No. 7, we bat deep... We need to have runs on the board, though... You can have all the names and all the ammunition, but performing in the middle is what matters. What we achieved (drawing the Test series) four years ago has no bearing on the present.
On whether the row between Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist could affect Australias performance
These things happen in sport and we shouldnt read much into it... Both have been big performers for Australia... Today, Warney is away from the game and has the right to speak.
On the Australian attack
Theyll miss Warney and Glenn McGrath, but its an opportunity for Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson and Brad Hogg...
On handling Brett Lee
Weve got to play according to the merit of the ball... Weve just come off a series where we faced Shoaib Akhtar, who is probably the quickest... Lee has been doing well, but well stand up and face him (with confidence).
On the centres ó Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide ó for the Test series
I believe the (drop-in) wicket at the MCG has slowed down, but it will still have enough bounce and carry... Sydney and Adelaide will probably spin a bit... Perth, as you all know, will bounce a bit... Adapting to different conditions is critical and we have to get used to the bounce.
On the issue of accommodating Yuvraj Singh in the XI
(Laughs) Its Anil Kumbles headache...
On whether hes feeling the pressure, being hours away from his 100th Test
Dont think theres pressure because it will be my 100th... Itll be just another Test and Im happy that Ill be part of the club featuring players whove played 100 Tests and 300 ODIs... As a professional, Ill be happy on Wednesday... One likes to achieve and getting to play 100 Tests is an achievement.
On the biggest days in his career
When I made my debut (June 1996), when I got the captaincy (March 2000)... Boxing Day will also be on that list.
On whether not being captain has made a difference
Not being captain has taken a lot of the responsibility away from me... As captain youve got to do a whole lot of things and could end up with no time for yourself... Now, I can do my own thing while, at the same time, trying to help Anil and the players in whatever way I can... Of course, I realise Anil is the captain and he has his views... Its a coincidence that Im not captain and have been doing well since my comeback last December... The bottomline really is that when Im in, I look to make the most.
On the form factor
Youre in a better frame of mind when youre in form. Youll have failures, but youve to find ways to overcome them... Find the way to be successful and youve got to repeat that... I did get runs in the last series (against Pakistan), but Ill be starting from scratch.
On Greg Chappells role in having him dropped (in 2005-06)
I really dont want to talk about Greg Chappell and his decisions... Its a thing of the past for me and I want to keep away from it.
On the chirping
Its common across the world... Something goes around the ground all the time, not all of which is bad... Theres tough competition in the middle and youve got to live with it... But, yes, Im a firm believer in that what matters is what you do with bat and ball...
On whether verbal duels fire him up
I havent tried to lift my performance only because something verbal is on... I try to do that every time I walk out.
On the one-time bad vibes between him and Steve Waugh
Who says he doesnt like me? Having a fight on the cricket field, in an effort to win, doesnt mean youve got to be on bad terms... Its about competing hard.
On receiving high praise from Steve
Hes probably one of my role models and was a champion player... Steve lifted Australian cricket and what Australian cricket is today is a lot because of Steve and the boys of his era... Obviously, Ricky Pontings doing a wonderful job as well.
Finally, on what has made him tick
(Grins) I suppose my determination... The determination to find ways out of tough situations... Clearly, one needs to have fire in the belly.