The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
‘Zaheer is our best in death overs’
- Team India captain Sourav Ganguly looks back exclusively at one of the most thrilling victories of his career

Colombo: After an excellent day in office, so to say, Sourav Ganguly gave himself the luxury of sleeping almost till noon, on Wednesday. Even after waking up, the Team India captain was in no great hurry to get ready for the day — therefore, it took him almost an hour to head for the Taj Samudra poolside, where he spoke to The Telegraph exclusively on Tuesday’s heart-stopper. That done, he headed for a Chinese meal (mixed fried rice and garlic prawns) with wife Dona and daughter Sana.

The following are excerpts

Q Talking of thrillers, where do you place Tuesday night’s victory over Sri Lanka'

A Among the best... The NatWest final (July 2002) and the win over South Africa in the last (September 2002) Champions Trophy are the others that immediately come to mind.... We fought till the end and got rewarded.

Did you die a hundred deaths'

(Laughs) Couldn’t afford to... I had to keep thinking and thinking correctly because, otherwise, we could have lost. As captain, I had to stay cool... Had to think of the process of getting to the result, not the result itself.

Frankly, did you give up somewhat when Sanath Jayasuriya was blazing away as he would in the mid and late Nineties'

No... I knew one ball would do the trick... Knew that getting Sanath’s wicket would end the challenge as the new batsman would require time to settle on a wicket where shot-making had become difficult.

Your comment on Jayasuriya’s innings (his 18th ODI hundred)'

Fantastic... It wasn’t an easy wicket, yet...

Once Jayasuriya went, the only threat was Upul Chandana...

Yes... Because he plays the spinners well, I got the quicks back.

Don’t you think we should have been closer to 300 than finishing on 271 for six'

We fell short by about 15 runs... But, still, I was confident of defending what we had on the board.

Zaheer Khan went for 12 in his first over and 21 in his fourth... Weren’t your plans hit for a six'

Well, I knew Zaheer had it in him to come back... Moreover, he’s our best in the death overs.

You’d decided to extend Zaheer’s first spell when Sachin Tendulkar ‘intervened’ and you brought on Virender Sehwag in the 14th over. What did Sachin tell you'

That Zaheer had already bowled six overs and I must keep him for the slog part.... Also, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have two off-spinners in operation (Harbhajan Singh being the other) as left-handers were at the wicket.

Sachin was more involved than usual...

Everybody was involved and, be it from Parthiv Patel or Sachin, I’m open to suggestions. It helps as this interaction may see the emergence of a good idea.

Besides Jayasuriya’s dismissal, wasn’t the 49th over from Irfan Pathan also a turning point'

I agree... He conceded just four and got Chandana... Irfan’s been such an outstanding find.

What sets the 19-year-old apart'

(Interrupting) Attitude... He’s got a good head and is hungry for wickets. We need the Irfan Pathans.

There seemed to have been a big debate over who should bowl the last over. What settled it in Zaheer’s favour'

(Laughs again) Some suggested Veeru’s name, others wanted Zaheer... Zaheer himself said he wanted to bowl and that helped clinch it... Also, it had to be a quick because spinners can’t bowl yorkers.

What did you tell Zaheer'

To bowl to his field...

Did you fear Nuwan Zoysa could smash a six off the last delivery'

He’s no Javed Miandad... We had already won on the penultimate ball.

You became emotional...

The occasion was such... Once in a while, I do shout and jump and...

And, what was your first thought before you leapt into Zaheer’s arms'

Joy... Relief... Such close finishes take quite a bit out of us players.

What happened in the dressing room'

Oh, there was plenty of excitement... The boys screamed and... There was a sense of achievement... Indeed, nobody wanted to go home early — something that would have been on had we lost.

You must have aged in the last few overs'

(Laughs yet again) That began more than four years ago!

Do you recall ever having made so many fielding changes in the slog overs'

Can’t say off-hand... One keeps learning... Having the right fielders in the right areas is central to stopping a chase. (After a pause) By changing the field, one makes the batsmen think as well... So, there’s a psychological element involved too.

You should be happy with your own batting'

Yes, I’ve got three fifties in the meet but, really, I need to fire in the biggest match — the (August 1) final.

Besides the obvious, what must we do in the final'

Focus on the process of getting the result, not the result itself.

The Sri Lankan bowling will be at full strength, but V.V.S. Laxman is going to be back as well... Won’t we be the favourites'

No... After all, what happened on Tuesday won’t count... As I’ve said, what matters is playing well on the day in question.

Finally, Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer feels no bonus point ought to be given to a losing team. What’s your call'

I can understand why he is saying so, but that rule is there for everybody to take advantage of — we did against Pakistan... Why did Pakistan concede even that bonus point to Sri Lanka'

Email This Page