Expectations as BCCI boss, Ganguly backers confident

With Sourav Ganguly set to take over as the new BCCI president, his former team-mates and people from political circles share their insights of the administrator.

Sourav Ganguly filed his nomination for the BCCI president at the Board's headquarters in Mumbai.   -  Reuters

Like a champion cricketer, Sourav Ganguly has adapted himself to lead remarkably well on the field and in the board room of cricket. Amid loads of expectations, the former India captain will have to race against time when he formally takes over as the president of a troubled Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on October 23.

Even as Ganguly’s elevation as the BCCI president, which was possible due to the apparent backing of some top leaders ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre, has triggered political speculation in West Bengal, people who have known the charismatic cricketer for years are confident that he will rise to the occasion to put the BCCI house in order.

“I have seen Sourav play at under-15 and under-19 level, at Mohun Bagan, Ranji Trophy, India and then become the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president. He is a leader both on and off the field. I am sure he will surely do well as the BCCI president. The biggest strength of Sourav is his honesty for the job he takes up,” former national selector and Ganguly’s mentor Sambaran Banerjee told Sportstar.

“He is known for doing things in absolute professional way. He will rebuild BCCI as one of the most powerful bodies in world cricket.”

For someone, who worked tirelessly to bring about a lot of changes in the CAB in four years as its president, the interest of cricket and cricketers was foremost for Ganguly. By improving ground conditions (including buying best covers to minimize rain disruption), bringing in sponsors, bettering spectator facilities, raising the standard of development teams (including vision 2020) and women sides, Ganguly did everything he could for the overall development of Bengal cricket.

He also worked behind the scenes, like an astute politician, to sidestep a rival group and get re-elected without any opposition.

“I have seen Sourav grow as an administrator – from being joint secretary to be the CAB president. I have seen him operate from a very small room with so many files in front of him. He would read all of them and try to understand how the administration ran. He comes to the CAB every day and never leaves his job for someone else,” said V.V.S. Laxman, one of Ganguly’s former India team-mates and one who has been associated with Vision 2020 for about five years.

“I have known him as a player and as an administration. He has lived up to the expectation at the CAB and no doubt he will take Indian cricket forward.”

For former India cricketer Ashok Malhotra, who played domestic cricket with Ganguly and has tracked his journey closely, the Prince of Kolkata enjoys big challenges.

“Sourav is meant for the bigger stage. He was not impressive at domestic level, but he has feats like scoring a hundred on Deodhar Trophy debut and scoring a hundred in international (Test) debut. He relishes bigger opportunities,” said Malhotra.

“When he took over as the captain, the Indian team was going through turmoil. He turned things around. Now, he is taking over the BCCI when it is not going through the best of times. He has 10 months. He has to take some quick and good decisions. It is a bold step (to elect him), but a right step,” he added.

Meanwhile, people in political circles of West Bengal are busy discussing the possibility of Ganguly, who has maintained good rapport with all prominent parties in the State and is the biggest Bengali icon endorsing more than 10 brands and hosting a popular television show, siding with the BJP for the Assembly elections in 2021.

Ashok Bhattacharya, who was a minister in the Left Front government in West Bengal, threw some light. “Sourav is respected by all political parties. Just a few days ago, Sourav met me as I was not well. I asked him whether he was planning to join politics. He said, ‘No, no. I have no interest.’

“I hate the linkage of sports and politics. I didn’t like when the chief minister (Mamata Banerjee) announced that he would be the CAB president (in 2015)…Everything changes so fast, let’s see what happens.”

Political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty, however, has a different take. “Sourav knows how to make the best use of the political masters… In 2014, there was a lot of noise that he would join BJP, but he didn’t. He can join only if he is offered the chief minister’s post. But now it’s not possible,” said Chakraborty.

“Sourav joined hands with (Union Home Minister) Amit Shah for mutual political benefit,” he added.

For the time being though, Ganguly will have to focus on the challenging task of putting the BCCI back on track.