Dhanpal Ganesh credits coach for impressive ISL season

The Chennaiyin FC defensive midfielder says John Gregory played a crucial role in his rise to prominence this season.

Dhanpal Ganesh...“The coach had great faith in me.”   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Dhanpal Ganesh was part of the squad in the second and third editions of the Indian Super League for Chennaiyin FC, but couldn’t play. When the 23-year-old got a chance this time in the fourth, he grabbed it with both hands. The lone local boy in the team went on to play 17 out of the 21 games in Chennaiyin’s trophy triumph, asserting his role as a fiery defensive midfielder.

Ganesh, on Wednesday, spoke to the reporters on head coach John Gregory, his role in the team and the reasons for the club’s winning the ISL for the second time.

Excerpts

Q: You did exceptionally well this year. Last two years, you were silent?

A: I was not silent. I didn’t get my chance last time. I was embarrassed every time fans asked me ‘why are you not playing?’ This time, I played mainly because of the fans and media. When Gregory landed in Chennai in July last year, fans’ only question was ‘will local boy Ganesh play?’ They were expecting. More than anything, they had faith in me. The B-Stand Blues fans, who haven’t seen me play, wished me well and said I will play for Chennaiyin. I had tears.

Main reasons for the success?

First and foremost is the coach (John Gregory). His technique, needless to say, was great. In the pre-season, I was not a regular. But during practice, the coach kept encouraging me. He kept faith in me.

How was the rapport with the foreign players?

Foreigners this time was very different than last time. I have never seen a captain like (Henrique) Sereno in my life before. If we have problems on the field, he will solve whatever the problem is.

You scored two crucial headers against Bengaluru (away) and in the semifinal leg at home against Goa FC...

Our planning was like that. Coach had great faith in me. Our team’s set-pieces were always good. (Gregory) Nelson, needless to say, was top notch. Nelson, our captain (Sereno) and myself along with Inigo (Calderon) were strong. Winning against Bengaluru in the away match was great as there was lot of intensity between the teams. In the semifinals (at home) against Goa, you all thought the match would be a goalless draw. But the coach told us to go all-out. To win 3-0 was outstanding. And to be not substituted at all in the final, was a big thing for me.

Read - Super Cup: FC Goa beats ATK to advance

Differences between two coaches — Marco Materazzi and Gregory?

Both are good coaches. Here [under Gregory] all players were treated equally. If for example, after the match, the players who played were given rest and recovery, the benched players got to train the next day. As it is a long season, the idea was that the bench players should also be ready.

You got quite a few yellow cards — nine to be precise. Was that a cause for concern?

My job was to tackle more. I needed to play tough. It is common to get yellow cards in that role. Sometimes I might have played in a stupid manner. Only If I tackle well, will I be there in the team tomorrow!

Once (Sunil) Chhetri scored early in the first half in the final. How was the mood in the camp then?

We always want to fight for the full 90 minutes. Raphael (Augusto), Inigo, (Gregory) Nelson and Sereno didn’t scold anybody. They only motivated us.

Defending the title will be tougher than winning it...

I know it. We forget everything when the new season starts.

Do you think ISL is helping the Indian team’s performance?

[It is] only because of the ISL [that] I am getting chance to be a part of the Indian team. I would like to thank Indian coach (Stephen) Constantine for giving me a chance. Playing with foreign players has definitely helped the Indians. Sereno has taught us a lot of things. Actually, the Indian team has a lot of ISL players. As far as playing again for the Indian team is concerned (he was benched in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifier against Kyrgyz Republic in March), I am waiting.

  Dugout videos