The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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ĎHandling pressure is keyí
I'll only say we've got a chance... We're working towards a common goal: Sourav

Paarl: Come the World Cup and the hot seat gets hotter. Sourav Ganguly, though, has been trying to stay calm ó never before, after all, has such responsibility been placed on his shoulders. The Indian captain, who spoke to The Telegraph the other day, is of course aware he must himself fire on all cylinders.

Following are excerpts

Q Twenty years on, everybody at home is looking back 20 years. What are your memories of Indiaís 1983 World Cup win'

A I recall my brother (Snehashish) and I, as also a few cousins, stepped out of the house and into the para. ...Crackers were being burst, people were shouting... It was quite unbelievable.

Q Did it have the Sachin Tendulkar-effect on you ó essentially, did you too exclusively take to cricket after that'

A I was already into cricket, like any other kid in India... That I should not look elsewhere was decided for me by the national selectors, who picked me for India as a 19- year-old.

Q Twenty years after history at Lordís, you are captaining India in the World Cup...

A Itís an honour... Obviously, as a ten-year-old, I hadnít thought I would myself one day be leading.

Q Though this is your second World Cup, it could have been your fourth ó had you, of course, been picked for the 1992 edition. What were your feelings when you had to return home after the Tests and tri-series (in Australia), immediately preceding that tournament'

A I was relieved.

Q Why'

A Because Iíd had enough of not playing cricket... Just one match or so in three months or thereabouts.

Q So, you werenít devastated'

A No, because I was young... I knew I had the advantage of age and, if I was destined to be picked again, I would be. That happened in 1996.

Q But the bigger splash you made that year was in Test cricket. Moreover, in Toronto, you were even dropped...

A Thatís past... I was a newcomer, I was learning. That year, specially, was one of education.

Q Your World Cup debut was in 1999... While you did have some handsome scores, Team India flopped. Today, how do you look back'

A We had the side to win that edition... I think that loss to Zimbabwe, in the league stage, upset everything... We had the talent, the potential... When the tournament began, we had everything going to go the distance. It wasnít to be.

Q And, this time'

A At this moment, Iíll only say weíve got a chance... Weíre working towards a common goal.

Q Thereís this feeling that your one-day game really took off after an explosive hundred in Kimberley, during a side match, on the 1996-97 tour of South Africa. Do you agree'

A More than that, I would pick the Siyaram Cup ó I hope Iíve got the name right ó in the summer of 1997. It was an unofficial tournament, in Hyderabad, but Pakistan and New Zealand had strong teams. I was consistent and that consistency gave me lots of confidence... The Siyaram Cup changed my one-day game.

Q How would you describe your approach'

A Positive, eager to get on with the job. I have the ability to hit boundaries, which is a key requirement, specially for someone right at the top of the order.

Q Unlike the early years, youíve been collecting runs on the on-side. Have you consciously worked at that'

A Iíve improved, Iíve learnt from experience... Maturity does make a huge difference and my game has got better.

Q Who suggested that you open in the ODIs'

A Sachin, who was then the captain, during the 1996 Titan Cup... At that stage, it was a challenge. Moreover, we seemed to have been struggling with the opening pair.

Q Still, nobody considered you as a regular one-day opener...

A But I quite liked the role. Thereís the opportunity to bat all 50 overs and, then, that excitement of the first 15 overs. Opening in Tests is obviously different.

Q I suppose your more satisfying innings will be the ones as opener'

A (Smiles) Iíll pick five, all as opener: The 124 against Pakistan in Dhaka (Indepen-dence Cup, 1998), the 100 in Melbourne versus Australia (2000), the 141 in Adelaide against Pakistan, in the same tri-series (2000) and the two hundreds in the 2000 mini-World Cup: 141 not out (versus South Africa) and 117 (against New Zealand)...

Q Is there more pressure on you, on the eve of cricketís hottest show'

A Isnít the pressure always there' At this level, youíve simply got to handle it. The ones to do it better are the ones more likely to succeed. I know we didnít get it right in New Zealand, the boys know that too... However, today, itís time to look forward not keep talking about a forgettable series.

Q Finally, what are your own thoughts'

A There are a range of emotions... Iím hungry and, as I told you the other day, Iím desperate. In fact, all the boys are.

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