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September 12, 2002
1220 IST

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Captain Ganguly insists on
being himself

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He is bold, brash, emotional, outspoken and expressive. In a nutshell, Sourav Chandidas Ganguly is like no other Indian cricket captain.

It is not just his personality that is different. Unlike his predecessors, Ganguly wins Test matches in foreign lands.

The sight of Ganguly jumping on his team mates and the sound of his passionate, ear-splitting screams after India's triangular one-day tournament triumph at Lord's last month may have drawn frowns from the game's traditionalists.

But his leadership has been invaluable for a team who had got used to returning home defeated and dejected.

"It is time for the rest of the world to realise how good a captain Ganguly is," former Indian skipper Sunil Gavaskar, the first man to score 10,000 Test runs, wrote.

"Under him, the Indians are beginning to get tougher mentally."

India missed a chance to win their first Test series outside south Asia since 1986 when the fourth and final Test with England ended in a draw at The Oval on Monday, leaving the series at 1-1.

But a glance at the statistics is enough to show how a newfound toughness under Ganguly is slowly getting translated into results for India.

Of the side's 18 Test wins away from home in 70 years of international cricket, five have come under Ganguly in the last two years.

A flawless record at home, including a stunning 2-1 drubbing of supposedly-invincible Australia, already makes him odds-on favourite to become India's most successful Test captain.


Along with his passion, the "Prince of Calcutta" is also becoming known for his mind games.

One example of how he gets under the skin of the opposition was in the home series last year against Australia when his own brand of brusque aggression, which included making Steve Waugh wait at the centre of the pitch for the toss, proved almost as important as Vangipurappu Laxman's record 281 and Harbhajan Singh's 32 scalps.

Though Ganguly was going through the leanest patch of his career with the bat at the time, the left-hander ranks that series, which was marred by tensions between the two teams, as one of his most memorable.

There may be no love lost between Ganguly and his opponents but he commands tremendous respect from his team mates, many of whom owe their return to international cricket to him.

Harbhajan had been sidelined after eight Tests but Ganguly persuaded the selectors to bring him back against Australia for a series which earned the wily off-spinner the nickname "The Turbanator".

Left-arm paceman Ashish Nehra had been cooling his heels since going for 94 runs in 28 unimpressive overs against Sri Lanka in 1999, until Ganguly had him included for an away series in Zimbabwe last year.

It was a bold decision to pick eventual hero Mohammad Kaif ahead of Laxman in the one-day tri-series in England and asking Rahul Dravid to keep wickets in the shorter version of the game has so far reaped rich dividends.


But Ganguly's brash and sometimes high-handed attitude prompted his Lancashire team mates two years ago to give him the title of "Lord Snooty".

"As a poor little rich boy, brought up in some splendour in one of the world's most deprived cities, Ganguly has never gone short but his carefully cultivated sense of self-worth is not shared by all," the Daily Telegraph newspaper wrote last year.

Captaining India, with its fickle, cricket-crazy fans and over-zealous armchair umpires, is widely regarded as the most high-pressure job in cricket.

Ganguly has not been able to escape becoming the media's whipping boy.

The 30-year-old Ganguly, who took over because Dravid was considered too soft and Sachin Tendulkar was plain reluctant, has often been criticised for his "arrogance".

"There has been sustained propaganda against Ganguly that has painted a picture which is far from reality and because he doesn't care it infuriates the critics even more," says Gavaskar.

A television commentator once called Ganguly "a peevish schoolboy at a birthday party" but the "Royal Bengal Tiger", coming off a satisfying English summer and with 867 Test runs under his belt this year, is not worried about what anybody thinks.

"I don't care, I just want to win," Ganguly says.


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