The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘It’s no good finishing second’
- It’s tougher at home… Pakistan, therefore, will be under somewhat more pressure: Sourav

Calcutta: Much as Sourav Ganguly wishes to stay away from distractions, he can’t turn his back on everything. On Friday, for instance, the Team India captain had to break off during a three-hour workout (at the Eden) to greet some of his youngest admirers: Schoolkids from Tarakeshwar.

“Thanks to all the hype surrounding the forthcoming tour, I’ve cut down on public engagements… Everyone wants to speak about Pakistan only… I must stay focussed on my game and captaincy, though,” Sourav told The Telegraph.

Understandably, he has been spending hours at nets — both the pucca ones and improvised. By his own admission, “minor adjustments” have been attempted and, for the past few days, former Bengal (and childhood) coach Debu Mitra has been at hand.

Asked whether the hype was affecting him, Sourav answered: “I’ve consciously tried not to get affected… In any case, being a professional, I can’t allow myself to get carried away by whatever may have become the talking point of the season…”

Sourav, of course, agreed that Pakistan would be under greater pressure by virtue of being the hosts.

“It’s tougher at home… Pakistan, therefore, will be under somewhat more pressure… Having said that, it’s not going to be easy for us… The pressure will be heavy on us too.”

So, how best is pressure tackled'

“Not being overwhelmed by external issues, thinking of just the game and, most important, keeping things simple… Irrespective of the pressures, I’ve got to get runs and captain well… The pressure-factor can’t be an excuse…”

News about Saqlain Mushtaq and Shahid Afridi’s (expected) recall hadn’t come in when we were interacting, but Sourav made an interesting comment: “Let them recall who they like… I’m concerned about my boys, not Pakistan’s. Potentially, however, they do have a good side.”

Four days after Team India’s selection (for the five ODIs), had he overcome the disappointment of having to do without Anil Kumble and Ajit Agarkar'

“In sport, there are occasions when one isn’t left with a choice… Injuries are going to occur and, frankly, one can only hope for a quick recovery… Today, I’m looking ahead with the resources made available…”

Sourav smiled when reminded of the goodwill-element and that his boys had a significant role in Confidence Building Measures between New Delhi and Islamabad.

“But, then, aren’t we always ambassadors' The goodwill bit will be off the turf… Out in the middle, it’s going to be very hard cricket. We’re, after all, sportsmen and play to win. It’s no good finishing second.”

Reacting to the Board’s move of countering Imran Khan with Kapil Dev, he pointed out: “Pep talks and supervising the bowlers for three days is okay, but nobody can effect a change in such a short period… If somebody does, he will actually be doing more harm than good… There’s a process involved in trying to improve a cricketer… That takes time…”

It’s difficult disagreeing with that.

Meanwhile, the three-day conditioning camp here (beginning on Sunday) is effectively going to be for two-and-half days. The Pakistan-bound squad leaves for New Delhi on Tuesday evening and, the next morning, has three engagements before boarding a special IA flight for Lahore.

The first two — briefings by the Union home and foreign ministries — will be gone through at the Taj Palace. That is going to be followed by a high-profile send-off on the lawns of 7 Race Course Road.

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