The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Don’t see me only as a good-luck charm: Bangar

London, Aug. 31: With India winning five of the six Tests (the other being drawn) Sanjay Bangar has played in, he is being seen as the team’s mascot. Yet, the totally unassuming Bangar himself wouldn’t like to be remembered as simply being lucky.

“Well, yes, people have been talking about it but where I’m concerned, I would like to contribute on a consistent basis. At the end of the day, people should remember me for what I actually do on the field, not see me only as being lucky for the team,” Bangar told The Telegraph this evening.

[The Indians, who arrived from Derby in the afternoon, had a day off — as has become customary on days of travel. In fact, there will be a break tomorrow as well.]

Bangar, 29, made his debut (against England) at Mohali last December. India, of course, won that Test by ten wickets. Then, he was part of the winning XI in Nagpur and Delhi (both versus Zimbabwe). In the West Indies, Bangar was fielded in the first two Tests — Georgetown (drawn) and Queen’s Park Oval (37-run victory). And, on this trip, at Headingley (innings-and-46-run-win).

A hamstring injury at Mohali itself had ruled Bangar out of the remainder of that series, but his comeback in Nagpur was incredible: A fantastic unbeaten 100, an innings which overshadowed even Sachin Tendulkar’s 176. He didn’t have much of a contribution in Delhi and, in Georgetown, scored a duck. Bangar didn’t do much better at the Queen’s Park Oval — nine and 16 (as opener).

“I wouldn’t say I was under excessive pressure at Headingley, but I did realise that failure could mean the end of my career... I was, therefore, more determined not to get out to a bad shot... Being dismissed by a good ball was acceptable...” Bangar remarked, reflecting on the excellent 68 on the first morning when the Duke was doing so much.

With Virender Sehwag leaving early, the onus was on Bangar and No. 3 Rahul Dravid to try and wrest the initiative. They did, with a 170-run partnership, which laid the foundations for what became India’s biggest overseas victory.

“I knew the ball would do a bit but, frankly, I didn’t expect it to do so much... It wasn’t easy... At the same time, I had a role and was bent on not letting the team down. It helped that Dravid was at the other end,” Bangar added.

In England’s second innings, Bangar also collected the scalps of Mark Butcher and John Crawley, executing well the double role assigned by captain Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright. “Actually, I must thank Sourav, especially, for always encouraging me... For constantly reminding me to not get affected by failures,” he said.

But, surely, the failures must have played on his nerves' “Look, it definitely doesn’t feel good if you fail. Yet, given the way I am, I’ve never lacked self-belief. I haven’t ever thought I’m not good enough for the highest level,” Bangar replied.

Bangar began the England tour with a duck, against West Indies A (Arundel). He did, however, have fine innings in two other first-class games: An unbeaten 52 (plus a match haul of seven wickets) versus Hampshire on a poor track in Southampton and the 74 (as opener) against Essex in Chelmsford. The latter knock facilitated his Test comeback.

Though he batted in the middle-order in four of the six Tests, Bangar himself is most comfortable opening. “I’ve been doing so at the first-class level from 1996... I don’t know why this middle-order thing keeps coming up... Still, bottomline is that I want to play... Am I a batsman who bowls or a pucca allrounder' For now, let me just play and not say anything...”

Bangar, who was joined by wife Kashmira and son Aryan before Headingley, will be having the rest of the family, too, at The Oval. “My father (Bapusaheb), brother (Santosh) and sister (Sunita) are coming... Hopefully, their presence will bring more luck,” he signed off, smiling.

Incidentally, Bangar lost his mother (Sindhu), a source of much strength, to cancer.

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