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Former India captains Sourav Ganguly and Jhulan Goswami on their leadership mantras

Iconic words from one of the greatest athletes of the modern era

By Aniruddha Biswas in Calcutta
  • Published 15.05.19, 6:37 PM
  • Updated 15.05.19, 6:37 PM
  • 6 mins read
Jhulan Goswami and Sourav Ganguly at Taj Bengal on Calcutta. (B. Halder)

You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get

— Michael Phelps

Iconic words from one of the greatest athletes of the modern era. And it was no surprise really as Phelps got a mention at the Lead To Win event organised by the Ladies Study Group at the Crystal Room at Taj Bengal on May 14. In conversation were former Indian cricket captains Sourav Ganguly and Jhulan Goswami — two absolute legends of the game — with sports journalist Boria Majumdar.

t2 was there to catch the off-the-field action.

The event was kick-started by Iti Dasgupta, president, Ladies Study Group. Excerpts:

How on earth could you (Sourav) take Delhi Capitals from the bottom place to the play-offs (in IPL 2019)? What is this formula? India, out of nowhere becomes the best team in the world. Is there a Sourav Ganguly leadership formula?

Sourav Ganguly: Thank you for having me here. I don’t think I have ever spoken in front of so many women (crowd bursts into laughter), so that’s a challenge. It’s a great honour to be here and share the dais with Jhulan. Jhulan is an ambassador for cricket and not just for women’s cricket.

When I play, I play to only win. I might lose a game but at the end of the tournament, I believe you must finish on the winning side. Delhi was always a good young team, it was about bringing them together. The credit goes to the players for turning it around.

India gets hammered by Australia, you score 128 all out in 2003. We the media and the people attack you, players’ houses are attacked. You go on to reach the final. How do you do it?

Sourav: We had a great team, we had players who could turn it around. I have a huge belief in that I cannot fail. I could fail for a while but I won’t fail for a long period of time. When you work hard, when you train hard, you train to succeed. When Australia came here in 2001 for the Test, Steve Waugh and I met and Steve told me: ‘This is our final frontier, we have won everywhere. But the way the boys are playing, it will be hard to stop this team.’ We beat them 2-1 in the series.

(To Jhulan) Travelling in unreserved compartments, sitting close to the toilets, from a tradition of nothing to create that landscape... you had no access and now to where you have come, tell us that story… that’s leadership.

Jhulan Goswami: Thanks to everyone. I watched cricket World Cup matches for the first time in 1992. We used to have slam books and collect stickers and usually most of my friends used to have Sachin (Tendulkar) as their favourite player. When Dada came into the team, many were supporting Sourav. It was amazing. One side was Sachin, the other Dada (Sourav quips in with ‘which side were you on?’ to which Jhulan says ‘I was on your side’). I thought if I play cricket, I will be able to play at least one match for India and take one wicket. My parents were aghast, they didn’t know much about sports. I was 15 and coming from Chakdah to Calcutta’s Vivekananda Park daily, travelling five hours by a local train was a challenge...

India were cruising in the Women’s WC final. You had figures of 3/23 from 10 overs. England won by nine runs. How did you guys recover from the loss?

Jhulan: We got a momentum from the New Zealand match but lack of experience in the middle order cost us. After the loss, we sat down on the field, didn’t want to come out, we were shy, depressed and angry. We didn’t believe we lost. But the way people loved us, showered us with respect back in India, the support... we realised we had done something good for Indian cricket. After this match, people took an interest in women’s cricket.

(To Sourav) You captained India, you took them to the WC final and then you were junked. You had to play Ranji Trophy cricket. You still prove yourself… you make the cut for South Africa… how did you do it? This is leadership as well.

Sourav: Dreams do come true if you put in the hard yards… in all aspects... in cricket you had Sachin… in football you had Maradona or Ronaldo… Messi. When I got dropped, I knew I was still good enough... I wasn’t dropped because I wasn’t hitting the ball well enough or anything. I was dropped because when strong personalities work with each other, friction happens sometimes. Earlier I had doubts and insecurities but once I played the Test at Lord’s, and got back-to-back tons, I was sure that I might fail but not forever. I would only fail if I don’t improve.

Have you ever felt scared out there? Or thought you would fail? The bowler is bowling at 150km/hr. What do you do?

Sourav: I have seen Sachin face sleepless nights and mind you… he is the best I have seen. When you take guard against the likes of Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar, sending down thunderbolts at 150km/hr, either you think I am going to be dismissed or you think, he may be fast but I am going to play him. I will tell you a story. Shoaib was bowling at 155km/hr to Sachin and the ball hit him in the ribs. I heard a massive sound from the non-striker’s end. Sachin didn’t flinch. The over finished and Sachin walked down to the middle and said ‘I might have broken a rib, don’t worry, we will take care of it after the game’. He got a 70 and he played Shoaib for another five overs. When the X-ray was done he had a fracture and was out of the series. That is mind over matter. Champions are produced this way… champions don’t back out.

(To Jhulan) We know how fitness matters nowadays. How do you keep fit? Tell me what happened at home after your nutritionist told you to have bajra ki roti?

Jhulan: After the WC last year, my nutritionist told me to have brown rice, white rice is a no-no. I went back home and asked my mother ‘Ei bajra ruti ki hoy go’. To which she replied: ‘Sorry ami parbo na korte. Tor babar jonno jonno eto bochhor shada ruti kore kore hapiye gechhi’.

Sourav: I have played the best spinner in the world, Shane Warne and his most important diet was a McDonald’s burger. I am serious.

The moderator then went on to enlighten us on Michael Phelps’s breakfast. According to him, Phelps eats close to a breakfast of around 50 people.

How do you cope with fame?

Jhulan: I try to accommodate everyone. Earlier there were autographs, now it’s selfies. I used to take autographs, too, so I can understand.

Sourav: Just the other day, I was walking and Rishabh Pant was walking ahead of me. So this Delhi gentleman walks up and clicks a selfie with Rishabh. We won the game but Rishabh got out in the last over trying to finish the game. And this man then comes to me and says: ‘Pant ka kuch karo yaar. Har baar last over mein out ho jaata hai. I told him: ‘Aap kyun nahi bolte, aapne to uske saath selfie liya’.

Does India have a chance in the upcoming World Cup? Any pressure on them?

Sourav: Of course they do. For players like Virat (Kohli), MS (Dhoni), Rohit (Sharma), they are used to pressure. (Virender) Sehwag used to tell me ‘I have a receding hairline because of you’… I asked ‘How is that?’ And he said ‘You ask me to open’. It’s good that India is under pressure.

(To Sourav) You said you haven’t spoken in front of so many ladies. I have a bouncer for you: why did you open your shirt at Lords (audience erupts in laughter)? It is the most conservative cricket bastion and you decided to show your six packs? Even the stewards there ask ‘Do you want to see where Sourav opened his shirt?’ (Peals of laughter ring out)

Sourav: (Smiles)…but before that you must remember that we played well. That is lot more creditable than taking the shirt off. It was a Saturday. I think it was a hot day, England gets a lot hotter these days in the last 10-15 years (laughs).

Tell us what was VVS (Laxman) and Harbhajan (Singh) telling you at that moment?

Sourav: After I took my shirt off, Harbhajan, a typical north Indian, says: ‘Main bhi khol doon? ‘Haan khol de,’ I said. Now VVS, a Sai Baba devotee just next to him says: ‘No, don’t do it.’ So that was the team I was leading — extreme personalities (laughs). That made the team special.

Jhulan: Dada, I want to ask you something. How difficult was it to lead a team full of superstars?

Sourav: I kept it simple. Score runs, pick wickets. You do whatever after the game, none of my concern. All I need is a win. From 8am to 4.30pm what they do is all that mattered.


Q) We need you as a politician too. What do you think?

Sourav: I can’t be in politics. If I could, I would have played longer.

Q) You braved parental pressure. Any message for young girls?

Jhulan: Please support your daughter. They need it. Allow them to do their thing and encourage them.

Q) You brought steel into the game, a gentleman’s game. What would you say about that?

Sourav: I am a docile person. During the India-Australia Test in 2011, the team was angry after a loss. The boys were desperate for a win. Even Sachin sledged. They were pumped up. I realised that their anger helps them. So I just used that anger to build the steel.