Purpose and clarity: Sourav Ganguly's first day as BCCI president
The conference room on the first floor of the BCCI headquarters in south Mumbai has hosted many press conferences by cricket administrators over the years. This Wednesday afternoon didn't seem any different for the media persons who had started to sprawl on the floor after waiting for one-and-a-half hours, except it was.
As is usually the case, the BCCI media managers first clear the way for the administrators, who then stroll in like heavyweight boxers - at the pace they want, surrounded by people. On this occasion, there was just a burst of buzz among the people at the door, the quick removal of the lens covers by the camerapersons, and the rather abrupt arrival of the new BCCI president. Sourav Ganguly paced inside with his face set and sat on his chair before you could blink.
The media manager always introduces the person about to speak, even if it is Virat Kohli. This time, he had just started to ask the press if their "cameras were rolling" and if everyone was ready, when Ganguly cut him short and said, "Firstly, good afternoon, everyone. And I'm ready, so you can start." Zap came a question and pat went back the answer from Ganguly. He was not here to waste his or anyone's time.
As my colleague Sharda Ugra observed, Ganguly wore black-rimmed glasses for a change to a press conference, and not his usual glasses or contact lenses. Was it for more gravitas, while he answered one question after another about the state of affairs in Indian domestic cricket, the administration, the BCCI-ICC relationship, how Kohli and the teams had to be supported, and everything else that was asked? It was Ganguly's first official day as the president but he had a grip on everything already. For not a moment did he appear ill-equipped or unprepared.
Neither did he beat around the bush as many BCCI office-bearers have in the past. It was this way or that for Ganguly, there were no creeks of vagueness or ambiguity his answers could fall into.
"Is domestic cricket your priority?"
"Yes, it's the first thing the Apex Council will look at," Ganguly replied.
"Is split captaincy on your agenda?"
"This is the work of the selectors," he said, ending the discussion there.
At one point, a senior journalist asked him if the Apex Council was going to effectively replace the working committee, and Ganguly cut him short, courteously but firmly" "No, it [the journalist's interpretation] is not correct, the Apex Council can give any powers to the office-bearers. It's not the right interpretation of the [Supreme Court] order."
When he was asked about the BCCI's representation at the ICC and about the revenue the Indian board gets, Ganguly explained the situation, adding, "Don't just go on hearsay."
No airs because of his position, no irritable behaviour, no grumpiness.
Not just his entry and answers, his demeanour and conduct too were unlike any other administrator's. Even when he visited the BCCI headquarters on Tuesday to meet the outgoing Committee of Administrators and the board CEO Rahul Johri, he was in formal-casual attire and sat next to the driver in his car with a laptop bag on his right shoulder.
On Wednesday, he had arrived with the same blue bag on his shoulder, no deputy to open his car door. Nearly swallowed by the cameras, he soon entered the BCCI building, wearing a formal shirt and trousers, with a blue blazer hanging over his right arm.
Three hours later, he appeared in front of the press wearing the same blazer with the BCCI emblem on the breast pocket. "I got this when I was captain of India and decided I will wear it [today] but did not realise that it was so loose," he joked.
Before leaving for the BCCI office on Wednesday morning, Ganguly got a picture of him clicked at one of the top floors in his hotel. In the picture, now doing the rounds on social media, you can see the Arabian Sea, the Wankhede floodlights almost lost in the high rises and the concrete horizon in the background, and the clearer Brabourne Stadium in the front to the right. Ganguly is standing on the left, wearing the same blue blazer, and looking back towards the two stadia with a glass wall separating them. You can barely see his face but you know he is smiling.
Mumbai will be like his second home for the next ten months and it's a city he shares a strong relationship with. "I came here as a young boy. I remember scoring my fist hundred for India here, it was against Pakistan in an Under-19 match at the Wankhede Stadium," he recalled. "That hundred actually triggered my career off, I got picked for Ranji Trophy, my [first home] Test match hundred here, [I've had] Test wins here. And then coming back to the IPL last year for Delhi Capitals and winning again [against Mumbai Indians]. This ground [Wankhede] has never let me down, so hopefully in my next role in a different capacity, I'll be able to get this administration and Indian cricket stronger."
In his 25-minute press conference as the BCCI president, Ganguly did not reveal anything starkly new compared to all he has spoken about in the last ten days, in both Mumbai and in Kolkata. But when he was asked to talk yet again after walking out of the BCCI office later in the evening, he said, "I've been giving bites ever since I've taken over," and drew laughter.
After the alleged cases of corruption, the Supreme Court's intervention and the BCCI being bogged down in many ways in the last few years, cricket fans will now hope Ganguly starts his new stint the same way he ended his first day in the office: with purpose and clarity.