Calcutta: Sambaran Banerjee takes pride in the fact that he was on the selection panel when Sourav Ganguly was picked for the 1996 series in England. The Telegraph spoke to him, as well as Arun Lal and coach Debu Mitra — two others who had seen Sourav from close quarters — on the eve of the left-handers 100th Test.
The following are excerpts (alphabetically):
SAMBARAN BANERJEE: I can proudly say that I played a small role in Souravs career. Sourav made his first-class debut under my captaincy and when he was picked for the series in England, I was the national selector. A lot of drama preceded his selection and before his debut Test at Lords, I was tense. The first ball he faced from Dominic Cork was a bouncer, but he battled all odds to carve out a century.
His fighting qualities havent diminished one bit and the 100th Test will be a reward for his dedication and spirit. It will be a terrific achievement. I dont think anyone from Bengal will be able to match him in the next 50 years. His performance will determine how long he will carry on. I hope he makes it a memorable Test at the MCG.
ARUN LAL: The way he has been going is phenomenal. I have been a fan of Sourav since his early days. I was the only one who had said he should play when he made his debut in the 1989-90 Ranji final against Delhi. During those formative years, it was his sheer talent that made all the difference. I always had more faith in him than he himself probably had. Along with the talent, his grit and determination have set him apart. He has changed and evolved over the years.
His comeback since the tour of South Africa last year has been sensational. He has appeared more matured and relaxed. Maybe the break has helped him to focus on life beyond cricket… It has given him a fresh lease of life. I wish him all the success in life.
DEBU MITRA: Souravs sheer talent has made him achieve what he has… I have only tried to show him the right way in his formative years. When I first saw him he was pretty raw but what struck me was his attitude and hunger for runs. He has been mentally strong right through. After his unsuccessful sojourn of Australia in 1992, he came back and wanted to change his stance. I asked him to get back to his original stance. Youve got to be yourself, I told him and that paid dividends.
We havent met regularly of late, but he still speaks to me to sort out any problems. Hard work and determination have been the secret of his success and I believe he still has at least two/three years of cricket left in him. He can play 150 Tests before calling it a day.