Sourav Ganguly, one of India’s most successful captains, believes that the current Indian team has enough firepower to tame Australia when the Border-Gavaskar Trophy begins in Nagpur on Thursday.
While he agrees that spin bowling will play an important role as always, Ganguly is interested to see whether the team can afford to play an extra spinner on surfaces that would benefit the tweakers.
In his playing days, Ganguly led India in 49 Test matches and went on to win on 21 occasions, whereas MS Dhoni won 27 of 60 Tets that he led, while under Virat Kohli, India won 40 of 68 Tests. But statistics aside, Ganguly believes that against a top-quality Australian bowling line-up, batting well will be the key for India.
In a chat with Sportstar, Ganguly talks about his expectations from the series, the importance of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja and what does this series mean for India head coach Rahul Dravid, who drew flak after India failed to qualify for the final of the T20 World Cup last year.
Your thoughts on this edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy?
It’s going to be a great series. You look forward to such series. As a player and now obviously to watch. Australia is a terrific side and has a very good bowling attack, although a couple of them are injured at the start of the series. They still have enough backups, and are a good batting unit, which is important in these conditions. But I still consider India to win.
With Ravichandran Ashwin leading the spin attack and Ravindra Jadeja back in the squad, how much of a boost will it be for the Indian team?
Spin is always important. Look at the venues where you are playing - in Nagpur, it will offer bounce, in Ahmedabad will offer bounce, Delhi could be a bit flatter surface and then Dharamsala will again be a good wicket. It will assist the spinners - that’s always been the case in India. It won’t be easy to play Ashwin and Jadeja together. I don’t know whether they will play three spinners, or whether they have that luxury with Rishabh Pant not there. That’s a call Rahul will have to take. It’s a different ball game to be playing in India.
Do you think that this is also an extremely crucial series for India head coach Rahul Dravid, who drew flak after India’s disappointing exit in the T20 World Cup last year?
He has done very well except for the T20 World Cup. The team still went to the semifinals and was just one match away from the final. He will do well. You have to give him time, he has just had one year. It’s too short a time for a coach. He will turn this team around. You can see Shubman Gill emerging as a very good batter and you will see a few others develop as well. There’s Surya (Suryakumar Yadav), who has done well in the shorter format. So, you have to give some time to Rahul. He will do well.
India has a strong unit. But what is that one thing that the team needs to focus on before the series?
They have to bat well. I read somewhere in newspapers that it will be a good wicket. A good wicket will start turning on day three, and those are not rankers. It actually becomes difficult - for our batting as well.
That’s why you’d see over the last three years, there hasn’t been too many Test hundreds because of the surface. I will be looking forward to seeing how it starts in Nagpur and with Rahul at the helm, I am sure we will be able to play on good wickets.
An India-Australia series is known for the banters and war of words between the two camps. This time, the build up to the series has been quite low-key, with hardly any war of words. Is the tactics changing?
I am sure there will be something; let the match start. Tactics are still there, otherwise how would you play the game. We will find out about the war of words once the series starts.
While the focus will be on Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, how much of an impact could someone like Cheteshwar Pujara have on the series?
He’s playing his 100th Test in Delhi and that’s a great achievement. He will be the 13th Indian to play 100 Test matches and he totally deserves it. But he also needs to be at his best because after the last three years, even he needs a Test hundred against good attacks. It will be a big series for him.
How has the game evolved over the years?
Cricket has changed tremendously over the years. Not just cricket, every sport has changed. Cricket financially has become sound. Even the quality has improved. I never knew quality and finance could go hand in hand. The great Sunil Gavaskar would bat against the West Indies greats without wearing a helmet.
Now India goes so many times a year to countries like Australia, South Africa and England. Look at the Australian team. They are not even playing a warmup match before the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. This is because they are familiar with the Indian pitches. During my time, I used to go to Australia once in 7-8 years.