'We can't only be winning at home and losing overseas'

I don't know how many teams have lost eight Tests in a row overseas, like we did, in England and in Australia, said Sourav Ganguly.


Calcutta:
India's most successful Test captain and an icon in his own right, Sourav Ganguly, spoke to The Telegraph at some length on Wednesday.

The following are excerpts:

Finally, somebody has paid attention to domestic cricket...But weren't the proposed changes overdue?

I wouldn't like to get into the past...This technical committee had a job to do, to look at taking things forward...We've done our best and it was nice to have Anil (Kumble), Chetan Chauhan and (Venkatapathi) Raju, among others, putting their heads together.

At the moment, your committee has made recommendations. Have you, in the past 24 hours, got a feedback from the BCCI?

I haven't...Look, procedures will be followed and the proposals have to be placed before the next working committee meeting.

Are you confident that all will be accepted by the working committee?

Hopefully.

Did the poor show in England and in Australia influence your committee's thinking?

Of course. It's not that the structure of our domestic cricket isn't good, but I haven't seen too many changes in the past many years...We'll always be a force to reckon with at home, but we've got to be good travellers...That has to be the goal, that's the goal I had when I became the India captain (in early 2000)...We can't only be winning at home and losing overseas. I don't know how many teams have lost eight Tests in a row overseas, like we did, in England and in Australia. How could the technical committee not take note of this dubious happening?

Frankly, just how much of an impact will the changes make?

Equally frankly, we'll have to wait and see. We've made the recommendations we felt should be made. It's in the middle of the next season that we'll get a fair idea of the changes on the ground.

What was Kumble's role at the meeting?

It was good...We have a common goal, to help take Indian cricket forward. [Kumble, incidentally, is the president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association.]

You want the pitches committee to play a massive role, to ensure that wickets have grass and bounce...

(Passionately) Yes...That committee's work will have to be monitored...Every centre staging first-class matches must have wickets with grass and they should be bouncy. We've got to be realistic and prepare our batsmen for conditions overseas. Flat wickets isn't the solution.

So, is changing the nature of the wickets the most significant proposal from you and your colleagues?

The most critical.

Why did your committee not talk about the stars turning out for their states/zones when they aren't playing international cricket? Isn't that as important for the quality of domestic cricket to improve?

We did discuss that, but (a) it's for the selectors to take a call and (b) we've got to be practical and take into account the heavy international calendar. The stars also need a break...You've got to remember that getting the stars to play domestic cricket doesn't fall in the technical committee's jurisdiction. And, to be fair to them, some do play for their state/zone.

You've attended quite a few meetings. Was the one on Tuesday the most fruitful/satisfying?

No, even in the past, I've attended some good meetings, after which the recommendations have been accepted by the BCCI.

Moving away from Tuesday...Will splitting the India captaincy be the best way forward 'after all, you've picked Gautam Gambhir as your man to lead in Test cricket?

No, I haven't said Gambhir is my choice.

But an agency report suggested that...

What I'd said is that Gambhir has been the best captain in IPL-V...I'd said that before the final, I think.

Fine, but should India have two captains - one for Test cricket and one for ODIs and T20 Internationals?

It's not my call, but I'm worried over (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni's workload...He's the India captain in all formats, he's also the Chennai Super Kings captain...Then, he's the 'keeper and has a role to play as a batsman...He hasn't done well in Test cricket of late and the reality is that he's led India to eight Test defeats in a row overseas. However, don't get me wrong, any decision the selectors take, should be in consultation with Dhoni...He must be taken into confidence. The interest of Indian cricket has to be paramount.

Do captains have a shelf life?

They do.

Today, what would you tell Dhoni?

He's got a break, which he needed...I wouldn't tell him much...But it's an opportunity to reflect on his own form and India's performances in the season just ended. I'm sure he'll agree that being tigers at home only isn't quite the way for our cricket to move forward.

Cricketers have quit Test cricket to focus on the shorter versions, but Kevin Pietersen has bucked the trend. Your take?

Those who've been successful in Test cricket will always prefer that format. Pietersen's choice hasn't surprised me...(Lasith) Malinga quit Test cricket because of fitness issues, but Ricky (Ponting) is playing only that format. Personally, I've always maintained that Test cricket is the premier format, no two ways there.

Are you shocked that 12 years after the Hansie Cronje scandal, allegations of fixing still surface? As the India captain, you'd played a big role in ensuring that our cricket stayed clean...

Right now, one is dealing with allegations (in India), let them be proved...We'll talk about this once something has been established, as was done in the UK, after the sting operation. The wrongdoing there by three Pakistanis was proved.

Do players need to be educated better?

Perhaps. However, at the end of the day, the players have to themselves take responsibility for acts of omission and commission.

What are your plans for the summer? Going to London, your second home?

(Laughs) No, I'm in Calcutta...(Daughter) Sana's school is reopening in a few days and there's much work to be done.

Have you given some thought to possibly continuing to play for Bengal and what about your IPL future?

Not yet, haven't given anything any thought.

After such a bright start, why did the Pune Warriors India finish last in IPL-V?

But sport is that only...You need to be consistent and a win in the last game doesn't guarantee a win in the next. Players need to be consistent, teams need to be consistent.

Is the franchise looking at a post-mortem sans emotion?

There will be one.

Being the Warriors' captain, did you find yourself under too much pressure?

No, no...I've never been bothered by pressure...I'm used to it...We weren't consistent...I should have done better, though...Indeed, I should have done more.

The final one...You congratulated Shah Rukh Khan for the Knights' success...

I did, I did speak to him.

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