The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Changed’ Sourav sweats on day off
- Former captain rises to the demands of Greg Chappell School of Cricket

Johannesburg, Dec. 13: Believe it or not, Sourav Ganguly (once accused of not wanting to sweat it out) opted for nets on a day off for Team India. In fact, early this afternoon, the former captain had two sessions in the practice area at the Wanderers.

Keeping him company was Gautam Gambhir, who chose not to have a second hit. Both wanted an indoor session as well, but couldn’t as a bunch of youngsters were being taught the basics. Disturbing them wouldn’t have gone down well.

Well, eyes needn’t have been rubbed in disbelief as Sourav has changed. As a person, he has become reticent; as a cricketer, he’s slogging in the manner of 1996.

Clearly, the past 10 months in particular have made the 34-year-old realise that the Greg Chappell School is arguably the most demanding around and that the coach — whether you like him or not — wants a particular attitude.

Chappell, who hasn’t done anything since Sourav’s arrival (as a Test specialist) to remind the world that he didn’t want him in the dressing room for what seemed ages, cannot but be pleased with this “new” approach.

Sourav batted for at least 50 minutes, using a bat brought by an acquaintance from Calcutta, and encouraged the local bowlers to test him in the manner they could.

In between sessions, he was mobbed by schoolboys from the South-Western Districts, who wanted “Master Ganguly” to oblige with autographs.

“He’s such an attacking player... Meeting him has been a big moment,” remarked one who’d even got Sourav to sign his shirt which may now never be washed.

Thanks to his captaincy (and batting) in the 2003 World Cup, Sourav has a high following in South Africa. The sizeable Indian community, of course, reveres him — after icon No. 1 Sachin Tendulkar, that is.

Asked whether he felt emotional on turning up at the Wanderers for the first time since that final against Australia, almost four years ago, Sourav grinned and told The Telegraph: “In many ways, yes.... It feels nice.... It was a terrific tournament for us.”

The disappointment of losing, though, remains. It’s just that Sourav chose not to talk about it. This, after all, is the time to look ahead as the first of three Tests begins at the Wander-ers on Friday.

Sourav, by the way, bumped into Shaun Pollock as he was leaving the hotel for nets. “Ah, good to see you,” is how the former South African captain greeted him. “Good to see you, too” was the response.

In much the same breath, Sourav asked: “Why has (Nicky) Boje retired' Looks like this is the season for retirements (Damien Martyn quit last week).”

Pollock, a year younger than Sourav, laughed: “Yeah, so it appears.... It’s fine as long as we don’t join that list!”

Having made the mother of all comebacks, Sourav definitely has no such plans. As for Pollock, he was Man of the Series in the recent ODIs and is thoroughly enjoying the role of senior pro.

Incidentally, both were captains during India’s last tour of South Africa for a bilateral series, in late 2001. Much has happened since, but their respect and affection for each other hasn’t changed.

So it ought to be.

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