EXCLUSIVE: ‘India don’t need split captaincy,’ BCCI president Sourav Ganguly charts out plan for T20 World Cup
Sourav Ganguly has begun his 10-month stint as president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) with a strike rate comparable to his 60 off 43 balls in the final of the 2002 Natwest Trophy—yes, the one where he took his shirt off in triumph at Lord’s. In less than two weeks, Ganguly has ensured India will play their first Test under lights and has started the process of contracts for first-class cricketers.
But splitting captains of the men’s team is not on his list of priorities. “I don’t think that is required to be even discussed now,” said Ganguly in an interview when asked if India need different captains for different formats.
Virat Kohli’s win percentage in One-day Internationals and T20 Internationals is less than Rohit Sharma’s—Kohli has won 47.16% of his 110 games as skipper in IPL and Sharma 58.65% of the 104 games he has led in the league—but with less than a year to go for the World T20, there is no doubting who is in charge.
Ganguly has called Kohli, rested for the T20s against Bangladesh, the most important man in Indian cricket.
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India play 13 T20s, against Bangladesh, West Indies, Sri Lanka and New Zealand, between now and February 2. Each of them will be part of the preparation for the World T20 beginning in Australia on October 18, said Ganguly.
Crucially, for a competition India won once, in 2007, there aren’t any T20Is slotted between the fifth and final game in New Zealand and India’s World T20 opener in Perth against South Africa on October 24.
“There isn’t any time to slot in more games; the calendar does not permit that,” said Ganguly. “But I think we are playing enough T20 games anyway. Over and above these, you will also have the IPL in 2020.”
That India has not won a major tournament since the 2013 Champions Trophy is a point Ganguly made before becoming BCCI president.
Ten months is a long time, according to Ganguly, but when India host another Test—in January 2021 when England are scheduled to tour, according to the World Test Championships itinerary—he will be serving the mandatory three-year cooling-off period after having been an administrator for six years.
But in that time it will be ensured day-night Tests become a regular feature in India, said Ganguly.
“We will try and play one every year in India. That is for sure. When India go on tour, we will talk to the board of the country we are visiting and see if we can feature in one.”
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Quite a turnaround for a team that will debut in pink-ball Tests this month nearly four years after Australia and New Zealand played the first in 2015. But then, Ganguly said on Saturday it had taken three seconds to get Kohli to agree to the Eden Test against Bangladesh being under lights.
So it fits that Ganguly would say: “I have enormous belief in myself. You give me something and if it needs to be turned around, I think I will.” And that nobody became a good cricketer sitting in the dressing room. “You will only be respected if you take a difficult challenge head on.”
Day-night Tests may not be the only answer to resuscitating a format that has in its thrall every cricketer—Ganguly spoke about how blessed he was to have played his 100th Test at a packed Melbourne Cricket Ground—former international umpire Simon Taufel has said. The lack of contest is as big a deterrent.
“These things move in a cycle. Yes, I was disappointed with the performance of South Africa on their last tour but I guess they need some time to get things in order and be the team I remember playing against. It is the same with Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Sometime ago, Australia were not doing all that well but they have now turned things around,” said Ganguly, swatting aside the question whether there needs to be a two-tier Test competition.
Ganguly, 47, is the first BCCI president who has the following of a rock star. He is also its most photographed head honcho. At airports, offices of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) at Eden Gardens from where he still operates, and hotels, everybody wants a bit of Ganguly and few return without getting it. On Saturday, as Ganguly, saying he was pressed for time, left an event, the hall nearly emptied leaving him embarrassed. But even as he brisk-paced to the hotel lifts, he obliged a selfie-seeker twice because the man said the first frame was “out of focus.”
Later that evening and at another hotel, he took a break from meeting representatives of North-east states for a prior appointment with Mohun Bagan officials, which kept being interrupted with requests for photo opportunities. Again, no one was turned away. It was the same when he waited for his car. “I grew up in a family where you were taught to give respect. And cricket has taught me to be patient,” he said.
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Given his image, how difficult would it be for Ganguly to rein in the India captain he was and be an administrator conscious of where he can tread and areas he needs to avoid such as, say, team selection? “Not difficult at all. I just won’t get involved in team selection matters,” he said.
The selection committee is thin on experience—44 internationals including 13 Tests among the five members—and asked what kind of profile BCCI would seek in the search for replacements, Ganguly said: “We will look at people who have the experience and the competence.”
The BCCI president said he isn’t relocating from Kolkata but would fly to Mumbai every week. “Give me responsibility and I will give it my best shot. Leave me alone and I might fall asleep,” he said.