Melbourne: Sourav Ganguly, the man of the moment, spoke to The Telegraph at The Langham Hotel on Tuesday — hours before his 100th Test appearance.
The following are excerpts
On the Tests which mean the most to him
No.1: My debut Test, at Lords, in June 1996... That I got a hundred (131) on debut makes it all that more special. In any case, nobody forgets his first Test.
Captain: Mohammed Azharuddin. Result: Draw.
No.2: The Bangalore Test against Pakistan, earlier this month... I got a career-best 239 and 91 and was rewarded with the MoM and MoS awards... We won the series too.
Captain: Anil Kumble. Result: Draw.
No.3: The Calcutta Test versus Australia in March 2001... We were behind by 274 on the first innings but still pulled off a great win... Harbhajan (Singh) got a hattrick and there was that memorable partnership between (V.V.S.) Laxman and Rahul (Dravid).
Captain: Sourav. Result: India won by 171 runs.
No.4: The Rawalpindi Test in April 2004... The huge win there gave us our first series win in Pakistan... I got some runs (77) as well.
Captain: Sourav. Result: India won by an innings and 131 runs.
No.5: The Brisbane Test in December 2003... I got a hundred (144) and I believe that set the tone for the series, which ended 1-1. That hundred fetched me the MoM award.
Captain: Sourav. Result: Draw.
No.6: The Adelaide Test in December 2003... Dravid and Laxman got runs and (Ajit) Agarkar picked up six wickets in the second innings.
Captain: Sourav. Result: India won by four wickets.
No.7: The Nottingham Test in July this year... Sachin (Tendulkar) and I had a good partnership in the first innings (96 for the fourth-wicket) and with the bowlers doing a superb job, we won quite comfortably.
Captain: Dravid. Result: India won by seven wickets.
No.8: The Johannesburg Test in December 2006... That was my comeback and it was important both for me and the team... After all, wed been hammered in the ODIs... I contributed with an unbeaten 51 in the first innings... Those runs came in tough conditions and we went on to win the Test.
Captain: Dravid. Result: India won by 123 runs.
No.9: The recent Calcutta Test against Pakistan... I got my first hundred (102) at the Eden and, so, that Test will remain special.
Captain: Kumble. Result: Draw.
No.10: The Kandy Test in August 2001... Wed lost the first one (in Galle), but came back strongly... My unbeaten 98 (second innings) also got me the MoM award.
Captain: Sourav. Result: India won by seven wickets.
No.11: The Headingley Test in August 2002... All three of us — Sachin, Rahul and I — got hundreds and we won in conditions which were typically English... I remember having played both spinners (Kumble, Harbhajan).
Captain: Sourav. Result: India won by an innings and 46 runs.
On the journey which has brought him to within hours of his 100th Test
It has been long... Has been good... Ive learnt a lot... Learnt to fight... Learnt to accept situations... Indeed, Ive learnt about life itself... Ive received accolades, Ive been criticised... That, I suppose, is part of sport.
On what did he learn the most during the time (2005-06) that he was out of Team India
That theres more to life than just cricket...
On whether he has been afraid of failure
No... Largely because Ive known my life wouldnt change if I had to stop playing cricket... Its important to be hungry... Its important to have the hunger to succeed... Good Test cricketers dont put their feet up and relax after one or two achievements.
On handling pressure
One has to find ways to overcome it... Self-belief is required.
On whether being dropped after the Karachi Test (February 2006) made him feel his career would end with 88 Tests
Wanted to make a comeback, thats it... The only thought was to make a return... That kept driving me... (After a pause) I believe in God and believe in destiny... That belief gives me strength.
On when did he become conscious that the 100th Test was nearing
During the series in England this summer, when I was doing well.
On his target beyond Wednesday
The team should do well... As for myself, Im looking to play right through 2008...
On the one hes most thankful to
On whether hell be missing anybody when he makes his 100th Test appearance
My father (Chandi Ganguly)... Hes not keeping well and, so, couldnt come to Melbourne.
Finally, memories of his debut Test
(Emotionally) I havent forgotten anything... I dont know the reason, but I was absolutely calm... Wasnt worried about failing... Didnt feel the pressure... My mind was absolutely clear... Strangely, Ive never felt that way again and, today, 15 things come to mind and Ive got to psyche myself... Got to keep telling myself that I must watch the ball... Perhaps that calmness on debut was thanks to God...