Sourav Ganguly is learning fast. He may not be taking lessons in captaincy, but has been able to grasp situations quickly. He claims to have developed a better understanding of the team, even as critics continue to find flaws with his methods.The triumph against Australia was scripted by some stunning performances from V. V. S. Laxman and
Harbhajan Singh, not to forget Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. The Indian skipper's failure with the bat may have been a cause for concern, but he played his part by leading the side well.
In this interview, Ganguly talks on various issues, including aspects relating to the team's dismal performances abroad.
Following every debacle overseas, there is talk of concentrating more on pitch preparation at home ; bouncy, grassy... Do you think we have made any headway or learnt from past experiences?
Every debacle leads to post-mortems, but what about the many situations when we came so close to winning. If we didn't clinch those, it was due to various factors. Losing from winning positions on many occasions hurt us badly. There has been a change in attitude at home and much has been said on the issues relating to pitch preparation. I don't want to discuss the subject of pitches at this point of time because I believe steps are being taken in this direction.
After joining the national team and making a successful Test debut in 1996, what impressions have you formed on India not winning abroad?
Winning, whether at home or overseas, has to be a habit. You have to make winning a habit, just as the Australians have done. For some time, the South Africans too were in a winning zone. We haven't been able to sustain the winning habit overseas. It involves hard work and I'm pretty positive that this Indian combination has the potential to write a new chapter.
How are things this time?
The preparations have been adequate. The planning has been professional. The best possible team has been picked. We all are looking ahead with a lot of optimism. It's a matter of the first win. The first win is so important. We have to break the jinx this time.
Keeping in mind the current combination, what makes you think that India can win against Zimbabwe?
Well, there are a lot of reasons. To begin with the team is so confident after the series win against Australia. The boys are keen to maintain the winning habit and it can be done through a collective effort. The batting looks compact and in form to achieve the goals. We have the bowlers to exploit the conditions too on this occasion.
What should India do to win on Zimbabwean soil? Does the team have the resources to do the job?
Of course we have the right resources to win. Like I said, the batting looks quite formidable. The bowling is far more incisive. When you ask what should India do to win, I would say we can give a good start to the job by putting runs on the board. Unless we have runs on the board, the bowlers can't be expected to put the pressure on the opposition. We all have to do our jobs. Bat well, bowl a decent line and take catches.
How different was it the last time India played and lost in Zimbabwe?
I think we lacked an effective third seamer then. The batting too had not put enough runs on the board. But the lack of support from a third seamer was crucial.
How much attention have you paid towards fielding at the preparatory camp?
A lot. We did a lot of slip catching and close-in catching too. It's an important aspect of our planning and I think we have prepared well.
Assuming that Harbhajan Singh may not be as successful on Zimbabwean pitches, do you think the Indian pace attack is capable of claiming 20 wickets in a match?
Let me tell you that Harbhajan did very well the last time we played in Zimbabwe. He's a better bowler now. And there's no reason to believe that he won't do well this time. The team is looking up to Harbhajan to continue in the same fashion as in the home series against Australia. He's the spearhead of the bowling with Srinath now and I've all the confidence in them. The effort has to come from everyone and I feel the
seamers will have to do the main job.
Do you think that a series victory in Zimbabwe won't be feted? Many feel that Zimbabwe is a lowly placed team in the world order...
To tell you frankly, I'm not worried about what the critics or people have to say. As long as the team plays to its potential, I don't think there'll be much to worry about. It doesn't matter if you travel to Australia, Zimbabwe or Bangladesh. We go there to win. We are playing international cricket and I'm sure everyone knows his job well.
Will your inexperience in leading an Indian Test team outside the sub-continent be a handicap on this tour?
I'm pretty positive. I'm looking forward to the tour. The mood is upbeat and I must tell you that I've learnt a lot from the series against Australia. It was a great win and was a big boost for me, especially as captain. I'm not going to discuss my plus points, but I'm always open to suggestions and it's a learning process for everyone. I'm concentrating on learning and winning and I'm proud to say that the team too is engaged in the same process. I know my team, its strengths and weaknesses, to keep things under control.
Considering that the team appears far more motivated than before on the eve of an overseas trip, does that make the job of a captain any easier?
Not really. The boys are keen and that's good for the team, but I've to do my job. I just can't sit back and expect things to take shape on its own. I've a specific job to do - win the series against Zimbabwe. The boys too have a specific job to do - maintain the reputation earned after beating the Australians. I've to score runs and ensure the rest do their job properly. The team is motivated and so am I.
Do you think a player needs to be reminded of what is expected of him? Are you the kind of captain who believes in prompting the players, whether senior or junior?
Yes, I firmly believe that a player has to be told what's expected of him. He needs to be told constantly, needs to be reminded of his potential. There are times when a captain has to sit with a player, spend time in his room and talk him out of his problems. A quiet chat with the captain can make a lot of difference and I say this from experience. I'm not in favour of constant prompting but I believe players need to be told at various stages of what is expected of them.
Lastly, whether a team wins or loses, to what extent is the captain responsible for the eventual outcome of a match or series?
I've always said that it's a team game. The whole team is responsible for the results on the field. One man just can't make all the difference all the time. Unless each man plays his role it's not always possible to pull off victories. As far as the captain's job is concerned, I've to lead by example. I've to do my best as a player too. My effort is always aimed at getting the team to play to its potential. The effort should be honest. There are times when you try hard and don't win. But the team knows that the effort made was honest. And that becomes the motivation to try and improve.
This interview first published on Sportstar on 02.06.2001
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