Kolkata: Sourav Chandidas Ganguly, the much-admired former captain of India, electrifying left-handed batsman, commentator/analyst and administrator (president of the Cricket Association of Bengal), has taken the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s new stance on ‘conflict of interest’ to the cleaners.
In an interview to ThePrint at his residence in Kolkata Monday, Ganguly said roles like commentating and mentoring, because of which he and his former teammates Sachin Tendulkar and V.V.S. Laxman have had to clarify before the BCCI ombudsman and lose their positions on the Cricket Advisory Committee, are not positions of influence.
He also spoke about M.S. Dhoni’s go-slow approach in the recent World Cup, and what he needs to do if he plans on playing next year’s T20 World Cup. Excerpts from the conversation:
Your tweets on the selection of the India squads for the West Indies created a storm. Is Dada angry?
No, I just made a suggestion and some observations. That’s it. You need the players to be featuring in all formats, regularly playing. It’s not going to help if certain players play for India in June and next only in December. Surely, rhythm and confidence matter and matter a lot. I’m opposed to too many players being moved around. I’m for stability, not a stop-start type of an environment.
In the squads picked for the West Indies, only captain Virat Kohli, vice-captain in white-ball cricket Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, K.L. Rahul, Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja are there for all three formats…
Exactly… Jasprit Bumrah has, of course, been rested from the ODIs and the T20Is. But I don’t find Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav in the T20I squad. What wrong have they done? Why is Shubman Gill, who went to New Zealand this year, not there at all? Good for Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer, but I hope they get an extended run and don’t get forgotten after the ODIs and T20Is in the West Indies…
My point is, don’t pick X only because he had a good Ranji Trophy or IPL, and don’t drop Y because you need to accommodate Z. Remember, good teams have a big majority of players common to all three formats. Good players play all formats. I’m not for what apparently is a horses-for-courses approach. How do you decide the course without actually putting the horse on that course? Don’t look for quantity; identify and encourage quality.
So, patience is the name of the game?
You need to be patient as international cricket isn’t child’s play. In any case, we haven’t won a global tournament since the 2013 Champions Trophy… We lost in the final of the next edition, in 2017, and have faltered in the semifinal stage of three successive world competitions (two World Cups and the 2016 World T20). We have to find a way to move beyond the last-four stage. Look at what England did in the recent World Cup. Learning from 2015, they transformed themselves into world beaters.
My advice: Have a game plan and take the pressure off players. If it gets too much, they will crack. It’s inevitable. Also, I’d like the communication between the selectors and the players and between the players and the team management to be clear. We don’t need cameos only, we need match-winning innings or spells. Learn from Virat, Rohit and Bumrah… Mohammed Shami too.
India got knocked out in the World Cup semifinal by New Zealand, but didn’t do much wrong till what became their last day in the tournament…
Accepted, but a way must be found to make the final and win it. India have the quality for sure; it’s about winning the big matches.
From the outside, have you sensed anything amiss at all between Virat and Rohit?
I haven’t… I’ve heard such stuff in the past and, no doubt, will hear it again. If the team wins, all is fine. Lose a big semifinal, and the whispers begin.
Are you in favour of two captains, one for Test cricket and the other for the white-ball formats? Or would that lead to different voices in the dressing room, with some players definitely common to all three formats?
To be honest, I haven’t thought about it. The captaincy has been split in the past, between Anil Kumble-Mahendra Singh Dhoni and between Dhoni and Virat. I’d leave this decision to the selectors; it has to be their call.
Dhoni, an honorary lieutenant colonel in the Territorial Army, has decided to serve with his unit in J&K. Your comments?
Admirable. Dhoni has always been the type to walk the talk.
What’s the future you see for Dhoni, who is 38?
I don’t see Dhoni playing till the 2023 World Cup. As for next year’s T20 World Cup, he has to take a call.
Having said that, if Dhoni wishes to play in that tournament, he’ll have to alter his approach while batting. Dhoni has been eating up too many deliveries, let’s accept that. He’s been such a champion and I have enormous respect, but he’ll need to change…
Every sportsman’s career has to end, which is why it’s important to go out when still playing well. Generally, extending one’s career by six months or a year isn’t going to make a difference.
Is Pant the ideal replacement?
Pant is a remarkable talent… Moreover, Dhoni also required time to become the Dhoni he did. Pant has already got Test hundreds overseas, in England and in Australia… that does some of the talking. It would be wrong to compare Pant with Dhoni, wouldn’t be fair. At this stage, after all, he cannot be a Dhoni. It’s not humanly possible.
Who should be the next head coach of the men’s team? As team director/head coach, Ravi Shastri’s two innings have seen India exiting in the semifinal stage of three World tournaments…
I wouldn’t like to comment.
You were on the BCCI’s Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) which got back Shastri two years ago, even though officials had specifically asked Virender Sehwag to apply. Is there regret over the manner in which Sehwag, no less an icon the rest, was left high and dry?
I’d rather not say anything as I sat on the CAC back then.
Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman and you were on the CAC which has been disbanded. A new one has been constituted and the next men’s head coach will be picked by Kapil Dev, Anshuman Gaekwad and Shanta Rangaswamy… Did you get a note of thanks, at least?
I did. I think the new CAC is an ad-hoc body.
Well, we’d been invited (in 2016) to serve on the CAC and, then, this conflict of interest came up. We require absolute clarity.
Sachin, Laxman and you had to appear before the BCCI ombudsman, Justice (retd) D.K. Jain, and clarify your position vis-à-vis this conflict of interest. Was it an embarrassment?
Not an embarrassment.
Looking at the bigger picture, where do you stand on conflict of interest?
My personal view: It’s absolute rubbish.
How can doing commentary, for example, fall under conflict of interest? Conflict of interest should only apply if a person holds a position in the Board and, as a result, can influence the awarding of contracts or the selection of the India teams.
As members of the first CAC, we were selected and not elected. Selected because it was felt we possess a certain skill and can add value to whatever task is assigned. Doing commentary or acting as a mentor/adviser of an IPL franchise cannot be seen as sitting in positions of influence.
According to the Justice R.M. Lodha Committee’s recommendations, the selectors, who are paid, will be picking the support staff. Wouldn’t that be a conflict of interest? The Board’s new constitution gives that power to the CEO!
Tomorrow, if Sachin’s son Arjun is eligible to play for India, will he be ruled ineligible because of his lineage? This is nonsense…
Conflict of interest has to be kept simple and practical. I can’t be stopped from doing commentary and earning, can I? I understand the Hon’ble Supreme Court has been asked for a clarification, so I wouldn’t like to add to what I’ve said.
Moving away from the Board… The scintillating World Cup final is still fresh in memory and the manner in which England won for the first time continues to be debated. Your take on the tie, the Super Over tie and New Zealand losing out on account of fewer boundaries?
Look, rules/playing conditions often get debated. However, the 10 teams in the World Cup knew what would happen in case of a tie. Naturally, nobody expects a final to be decided that way and I told you so at Lord’s, but there’s food for thought now. New Zealand were unlucky, agreed, but England won within the rules/playing conditions.
The story would have been different had the third umpire intervened and told the on-field umpires that Ben Stokes and Adil Rashid had run one short… He didn’t have the power, which really opens up another debate. Your thoughts?
It may have been different had the overthrow cost New Zealand five and not six runs. Equally, England’s approach thereafter could have been different, again leading to a tie and bringing the Super Over into play.
When technology is there and replays available, maybe the powers of the third umpire need to be revisited. The on-field umpires were under pressure, which is why I favour a short, 10-second breather before big decisions. Take a deep breath.
On the eve of India’s semifinal, you’d picked Virat as the best captain in the World Cup. Would that ‘award’ go to Kane Williamson, after the admirable way he helmed New Zealand in Manchester and in the final?
Eoin Morgan. He was calm, handled the pressure and expectations so well. He’s such a positive person. I began to admire him.
The Ashes beginning this week may just be fascinating…
With England winning the World Cup, the interest could surpass previous highs. I expect a good contest, but I’m worried about England’s batting.
Finally, you are wearing many hats. How are you able to do the balancing act?
(Laughs) It’s a struggle and, at times, I feel it takes a toll mentally. Life hasn’t been easy over the past few years, but I guess the time has come to decide what I actually want and what I don’t need. I cannot continue being everywhere. In fact, my body has lost track of the time zones and, today, responds to its own time zone!
Lokendra Pratap Sahi is a veteran sports journalist who has covered cricket across the globe for nearly four decades.