I’m here to just play cricket: Ganguly

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"I know I'm not going to get picked or dropped because of how many runs I score or don't score in this tournament. I'm not trying to make any statements, I just want to play," says Sourav Ganguly in an interview to The Indian Express.

After a long workout in the gym, a washed out Sourav Ganguly drops on the sofa and points at the pouring rain through the glass window. "I came from Kolkata to escape this, and look what I've found here. These definitely aren't good days for me," he says with a laugh.


Spending the afternoon at the five-star hotel wasn't what Ganguly had in mind when he surprised every one, including the local organisers, by asking for a slot in the annual JP Attray one-day tournament in Chandigarh this week.


Ganguly and Punjab have developed a strange relationship of late. On a cold, misty day almost two years ago, he had inspired Bengal to victory in a Ranji Trophy match at Mohali in front of a few thousand fans who were strangely cheering for the former India captain rather than their home state.


As chants of "Dada, Dada" cut through the icy wind that morning, Ganguly - fighting to make a comeback into the Indian team after being ignored for almost a year - occasionally waved to the stands to send them into raptures. Within a week, he stormed back into the Test team for South Africa.


On Friday, just a few kilometres from the Mohali ground, life had come a short, eventful, full circle for the former skipper.


It was surreal watching him sweat through his Team India practice gear days after he was left out of the Rest of India squad for the Irani Cup - a decision that was seen as a sign that there would be no place for him in the Test team against Australia as well.


What was he trying to prove?


"Nothing," he said in his first interview since the Irani decision, "I'm here to just play cricket. I've been knocking in Kolkata but the rains have been unrelenting. How much can you bat in the nets, that too indoors? I needed to get some action."


But why this tournament, where he sticks out like a motorbike ("rickety," he adds the adjective with a wink) in a cycle race?


"I know I'm not going to get picked or dropped because of how many runs I score or don't score in this tournament. I'm not trying to make any statements, I just want to play. I tried to get into Buchi Babu and the Tamil Nadu league but there were no invitational teams allowed for those tournaments. You had to be a registered player with the state. So, I called Mr IS Bindra and asked about this tournament, and he arranged places for me and (Bengal paceman) Ranadeb Bose in a team."


Ganguly doesn't even remember the full-form of the LIC (Leaders in Cricket) Club he'll be representing. But that's not important.


Does this mean he's not quitting yet? "I'm still practising hard. And I've come here to play, haven't I?"


Taking breaks to sign autographs and to occasionally greet other recognisable public faces in the hotel, Ganguly leans over to the next table and tells veteran film actor Ranjeet that he's a big fan. Ranjeet is delighted, and charmed.


Then it's time for some weather forecasting. "Today and tomorrow are washed out, but they've rearranged the schedule. I should get games on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday if it doesn't rain. Three knocks will be good," he says, before deciding suddenly that "it won't rain" because his luck can't be that bad.


A lot of things about Ganguly's future as an international cricketer will become clear at the end of the month, when the new selection committee is constituted and when the names are called out for the Test series against Australia. Some of the incumbents have said the problem with Ganguly is not his batting but his fielding, fitness and running between the wickets - the "whole package", they've called it.


So, what if he's not in the squad?


Ganguly shrugs. "We'll see what happens. What do you think I should do?" he asks without expecting a reply, and leaves it at that.