India’s most successful Test captain, Sourav Ganguly, turns 40 on Sunday. On the eve of his birthday, Sourav spoke to The Telegraph for over 45 minutes at his Behala residence.
The following are excerpts
Q On Sunday, will you be 40 years young or old?
A (Laughs) Definitely 40 years young.
For some, life begins at 40...
Look, for me, life goes on. It doesn’t begin anywhere and it doesn’t end anywhere.
What could be your first thought on Sunday?
Don’t know... It will be just another day and just another birthday... I like doing things which make me happy and that won’t change.
Has something special been planned?
On the eve of turning 40, how do you view the years that have gone by?
Nobody is satisfied 100 per cent... I’d say I’m satisfied to the extent of 90-95 per cent... But that’s fine, for if you get happiness only, then you won’t know the value of sadness... I’ve had a good life, born into a family where I didn’t have to worry about anything. When I look around, generally, I realise how lucky I’ve been. I’ve been blessed, both cricket-wise and as a person.
Is there a regret?
As a cricketer, yes... Having made the final, I wanted to be a World Cup-winning captain, in 2003... It would’ve been nice to have won the IPL once... But there are the big positives... Beating Australia in India in 2001, winning in Pakistan in 2004... Doing well in England and in Australia.
Given a chance, would you relive anything differently?
What’s the No.1 piece of advice that you keep giving to (daughter) Sana?
Being nice to people.
That’s important for you…
Is that why you’re so obliging?
Indeed, because that’s the way... I consider myself blessed, God has given me so much... So, I should try and help those I can... I can’t do everything, for I don’t have the expertise to do everything.
But why have you got into controversies and why have some been gunning for you?
Because I’ve never compromised with the truth... People went for me as I’d become very powerful in Indian cricket... Don’t forget I’d been the captain for over five years... I’d become too powerful for too long... Today, people are gunning for (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni...I guess it’s bound to happen.
So, some wanted to pull you down?
What could we see you doing 10 years from now?
I have options.
Your school project has been held up...
I’m struggling with the school a bit as I haven’t been able to find land.
But I thought chief minister Mamata Banerjee had given you an assurance. What happened?
I’ve requested the chief minister, but nothing has materialised... Having said that, she’s so busy and I can’t keep going back to her all the time. The school project is very dear... I believe I can make a difference.
Virender Sehwag has already opened a school...
It’s massive... I keep telling Viru he shouldn’t focus on the school, but on his game as he’s still got three-four years of cricket left in him.
What’s the difference you’d like to make?
You know, when Sana goes to school, I find her bag is heavier than she is. I want to change that... I’d like a balanced approach, where children find the time to do things outside studies... Who knows, the next Lata Mangeshkar could actually be in Calcutta, but the girl isn’t getting the time and opportunity to train with a guru... Right now, it’s just studies and more studies. So many 10-year-olds may be wanting to play cricket for India, but can they say goodbye to studies? I’d like a system where it’s not necessary for the children to be in school five days a week. I want a system which allows them time to play cricket or football and to train in singing and dancing.
You’re much sought after by television...
I know, but I don’t want to keep travelling all over... At this stage in my life, I don’t like being away from home for long.
A reality show is again on the cards?
It is, but it’s not the right time to go into details.
Many of your well-wishers hold the view that once you went unsold at the January 2011 IPL auction, you should’ve quit all forms of the game... Many believe that the crores tempted you. Your response?
I’m definitely not playing because of money. In fact, I can earn more if I give more time to television... I can earn more if I sit in my father’s chair and look after our business. If I’m still playing, it’s because I love cricket... Enjoy playing the game. Let me add that the money I get from the IPL isn’t that great. When I started playing Ranji Trophy, in 1989-90, I’d get Rs 400 for every match.
Was that too little or too much?
I didn’t know what to do, I’d give it to my mother.
Weren’t you dating (wife) Dona then?
(Laughs) No... That was in 1992 or 1993, I think.
Just how important is money?
It’s important to the extent that it keeps you happy. But money never makes you happy. For me, turning up on a cricket field makes me happy... Sport is a great leveller... I was once among the top-10 most powerful men in India... Yet, last year, I went unsold at the IPL auction... Look at Rafael Nadal, just weeks after winning the French Open, he was ousted in round-2 of Wimbledon... There are no guarantees... Even Chris Gayle went unsold in that auction, but he’s been the IPL’s best player in the last two editions... Sport isn’t a fixed deposit investment, where the money keeps coming at regular intervals.
You’ve expressed the desire to one day coach the national team. But coach or mentor?
It’s the same thing, really... Idea is to help improve a player’s performance. Coach or mentor, it will be exciting and I’ll be close to something I love.
Rahul Dravid is also open to coaching...
But if both of you are keen, who should be the coach and who the batting consultant, perhaps?
I could be the coach, so I could take the abuse... Take the brickbats... Rahul can quietly sit at the back and be the nice boy that he is!
What has cricket taught you?
It has taught me a lot about life... Taught me to fight hard, to be patient... Cricket has taught me to be balanced... You could score a hundred one day and be out for a duck two days down the line.
I’d like you to be honest... Don’t you regret having quit international cricket as far back as November 2008? Couldn’t you have played for a season more? We’ve been struggling to get your replacement at No.6…
I do regret my decision sometimes, that I should not have acted in anger. But I did and... That bit is done and dusted... Yes, I could have played for another two years.
Why did you get angry?
I didn’t have one good series (in Sri Lanka) and, when the Irani Trophy squad was announced, my name was missing... I’d stopped enjoying my game because I was thinking about things not related to my game, to my cricket. I could have probably just said ‘Let them do what they want’ and wait for my time.
By ‘them’ do you mean Board officials or selectors?
Why do some keep raising the bogey of attitude?
If I had a bad attitude, I couldn’t have played Test cricket for 12-13 years... My teammates wouldn’t have praised my leadership during my years as captain... The other day, even Rahul praised me.
You haven’t ruled out playing in IPL-VI...
We have three-year contracts and I have a year to go (with the Pune Warriors India)... There’s time, let’s see.
What separates an average cricketer from one with that X factor?
Desperation... The want to succeed and the effort he makes to take the big steps.
Besides Sachin Tendulkar, who is the most talented cricketer you've seen in the past 20-odd years?
Rahul and Viru, both enormously talented.
To talk of your India years, what was the driving force?
Just playing for the country... Doing well gave a high... Hundreds gave immense satisfaction... I got Rs one lakh on the 1996 tour of England, where I got two Test hundreds, but nothing money-wise since has given the same satisfaction.
Do those two hundreds, including the one at Lord’s on debut, remain the high point of your career?
The biggest disappointment?
Reaching the final, but not winning the 2003 World Cup.
Moving away from cricket, you unleashed a storm by marrying the girl of your choice? Can we have something on the romance?
No... No... It’s an old story.
What’s your advice to those similarly placed?
Do what your heart says.
Your first date?
Can’t remember when.
Did you go to Flury’s or the nearest puchkawallah?
I honestly can’t recall, but it wasn’t Flury’s. Didn’t have the money to go there! When I was in school, my paternal grandfather gave me a daily allowance of Rs 2, so it’s not that I was used to having plenty on me to splurge.
What’s your take on the India of 2012, with scams surfacing every now and then?
I’m not qualified to comment on the scams and I don’t know what’s the truth...In the world of cricket, however, India calls the shots and that’s a matter of pride.
The last one... Not too long ago, it was assumed that you’d make it to Parliament, but Sachin has beaten you...
(Laughs) As a team, we (cricketers) decided that Sachin should represent us! Look, I have no interest in politics... Getting into politics will eat into my time for cricket.