The last time the Indian team was going through its leanest phase — post the 1999 matchfixing shame — Sourav Ganguly led a young bunch of players to rise from the ashes like a phoenix.
Now, when the team is going through a similar bad phase — due to retirements of Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar ( only in ODIs) — who better than Dada can provide some words of wisdom to the current skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni? Speaking to MAIL TODAY, Ganguly said it is important for Dhoni to keep scoring consistently and lead with example just like he did in the first ODI against Pakistan in Chennai on December 30.
“ When the team is going through a phase of transition like the present Indian team, it is very important for the captain to raise his hand and get counted. Dhoni needs to keep scoring consistently and ask other players to pull up their socks,” Ganguly said.
“ A captain earns the respect of his teammates only when he himself is doing well.
Also, when a captain does well, it creates a very positive environment within the team and youngsters take a leaf out of their captain’s book and are encouraged to rise up to the challenge.” For a man who hand- picked the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh among others to build a new look Team India in early 2000, Ganguly feels that Dhoni needs to take the same path.
“ The situation is slightly different now. In my case, it was more about a few senior players being banned, while in Dhoni’s case the seniors have called it quits. But the end result is just the same — places have opened up in the playing XI,” the former skipper said.
“ So, now it is important for Dhoni to pick up talented guys and then back them to do well at the international level. He has to find players who will serve Indian cricket in the long run. It is definitely easier said than done, but it is the call of the hour.” With critics calling for his head post the humiliating Test series loss against England at home, Dhoni had said that he wasn’t ready to quit captaincy during this bad run and wanted to actually take up more responsibility.
Ganguly feels that shows a lot of character.
“ This is what international cricket is all about, the challenges that you face from every quarter and the need to perform against all the top teams.
I think it was a very brave statement by Dhoni and one that he needs to back now with performance on the field,” he said.
A discussion with Ganguly regarding the India- Pakistan series is always incomplete without talking about the Prince of Kolkata’s heroics against the arch- rivals time and again in his career. Ganguly feels that these are the games that bring out true champions from inside players.
“ Just look at the environment in each of the three games that we have had so far.
The stadiums are jam- packed and the atmosphere electric.
Honestly it is a great feeling.
“ The vociferous crowd only motivates you further and the adrenaline rush is just amazing.
When you perform in such highvoltage conditions, you tend to believe a lot more in your abilities,” he said.
With all the speculations about Tendulkar’s timing of retirement, Ganguly said that it isn’t as easy as it seems for a player to call it a day.
“ When all you have done in your heydays is play cricket, retirement is a very difficult decision. Playing is something that you love doing. All the physical activity involved with it is what keeps you going and then to call time on that isn’t very easy,” he signed off.