`I will never relax'

It will be a tough series no doubt but I am confident the team will do well. We did well in Australia on similar pitches and can win in South Africa. We are a good side and I strongly believe that we can do well. I know my team. - SOURAV GANGULY-ARUNANGSU ROY CHOWDHURY

Sourav Ganguly is confident of doing well this time. "I am prepared to bat at any position the team wants me to and I am looking forward to bowling more than I used to," he says in a chat with Vijay Lokapally after being selected for theTest series in South Africa.

Very few people stood by Sourav Ganguly when he lost his place in the Indian team. But the former India captain pledged to make "one comeback that would justify my belief that I was still good enough."

His close friends suggested that he quit, but Ganguly refused to give in without a fight. It hurt him when people asked, "When are you retiring?", but he took things in his stride and came up with a strong statement of his grit and confidence by scoring runs in domestic cricket and proving his fitness.

The Prince of Kolkata, said to be lazy on the field and a shirker when it came to fielding drills, trained really hard. A cricketer to the core and a lover of football, Ganguly took up kick boxing and running to keep himself fit. He then travelled in a low-cost airline to Guwahati for a Duleep Trophy match and scored an impeccable century that confirmed his form and determination to come back into the Indian team.

Back in the Indian team, Ganguly spoke to Sportstar on various issues even as he was packing his bags to leave for South Africa.

The excerpts:

Question: How do you look at your latest comeback to international cricket?

Answer: Obviously I am very happy. When you are picked to play for the country you can only be happy and look forward to giving your best. I was expecting a call-up because I had worked very hard for it. I was optimistic right through.

How would you describe the traumatic 10 months you spent in making your comeback?

It was an education. Cricket is like life. There will be good days and there will be bad days. Results don't come easily. Sometimes they come late but if you work hard you can achieve what you set out to get. I had to work very hard and it was tough. I just could not relax. I never will.

Would you say this is a make or break opportunity for you, considering the circumstances that led to your recall?

No. It is a series like any other in the past where one has to play to the best of his abilities.

Do you need to prove yourself all over again?

Not really. It is the same for everyone and I think I am no different. Every tour is important, so is this one. Not just for me. I am sure all will do well.

Do you look forward to playing in South Africa?

I have played there before. It will be a tough series no doubt, but I am confident the team will do well. We did well in Australia on similar pitches and can win in South Africa. We are a good side and I strongly believe that we can do well. I know my team.

Any specific preparations for South Africa?

Nothing different really. I have handled grassy and bouncy pitches in the past. I have been in touch with the game and am not really worried, as I am confident. I am only looking forward to the time I, and the others too, would need to adjust to the conditions in South Africa. No doubt I will have to make adjustments but I will handle the situation once I join the team.

What is your level of confidence at the moment?

I am as confident as ever, or else I would not have made a comeback by doing well in the domestic circuit. I am looking forward to the tour. Once you walk to the middle, you are on your own. You have to concentrate on the specific role that the team management assigns you and play in the interest of the team.

What role would you assign for yourself?

I will play according to the team management's instructions. I am prepared to bat at any position the team wants me to and I am looking forward to bowling more than I used to. I think I can fill the role of the fifth bowler since the pitches would be helpful.

What sort of adjustments would you need to make in South Africa?

Nothing major. The pitches would be different from the ones in India and the length will vary, so one has to make certain adjustments. You would do that when playing in England or Australia or New Zealand.

How about the pressure on you?

I am used to it. In any case pressure is part and parcel of the game at the international level and you have to cope with it. There is pressure in domestic cricket too where others are waiting to get you and make a point for themselves. I have played enough at the highest level to understand and handle pressure. I have made a comeback after going through pressure in the last 10 months.

What would you say of your form?

I am pretty happy with it. Personally I think I batted well. I got centuries in the Duleep Trophy and Ranji Trophy. Some games may have been small but for me they were big in terms of trying to make a comeback. Each hit in the middle counts more than many in the nets and I was happy to get the nod from the selectors.

How was it returning to the domestic circuit?

I enjoyed it really. I remembered the times when we would travel in trains and encounter difficult conditions.

Do you look at yourself as someone going to make his debut?

I can say one thing for sure that the tour of 1996 (to England) taught me a lot. I made my debut and learnt to never give up. One has to keep trying and not wait for things to happen.

Are you really fit?

Yes I am. I have really worked hard on my fitness and fielding. I am thankful to two people — (coach) Paras Mhambrey for helping me with his tough fielding drills and (trainer) Chinmoy Roy for working on my fitness. I am lucky to be playing for Bengal. We have a wonderful bunch where everyone supported me in my fight.