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EXCLUSIVE: ‘I Personally Requested Virat Kohli Not to Give Up T20 Captaincy’-Sourav Ganguly

In an exclusive to News18, BCCI President Sourav Ganguly spoke on the captaincy shift controversy, team India’s future prospects, his tenure coming to an end and speculations of him joining politics. Here are the complete excerpts.

Indian cricket currently seems to be at a crossroads. We have Rahul Dravid as the new coach. Rohit Sharma as the new captain in both white-ball formats of the game. As the administrative head of cricket in India, where do you see things going from here on?

It’s very difficult to predict the future, but India is a great side. We have a very good coach and the team is in able hands with a new captain as well. So, we wish them all the best. Cricket is a team game. The players together with their captain and coach make it successful. And they have been successful in the last five years; I don’t see any reason why they can’t now. I wish them the best and hopefully, we can reach greater heights in the years to come.

Some big tournaments in the pipeline… the T20 world cup, the 50 over world cup which would be played in India… The team as you see it now, how hopeful are you?

From 2022 to 2031, there will be a world championship every year and India will be a contender. I have always believed they can win. They had a semi-final loss in 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup. In 2021, they lost in the group stage itself (T20 World Cup). But like any other Indian cricket fan, I believe India will win some of those tournaments. However, they can’t win everything.

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You have been pinning a lot of hope on Rohit Sharma for the T20 and limited-overs format. Are you hopeful that he would be able to lead the squad as his predecessors have?

Of course. That’s why the selectors have backed him. He will find a way to do well and I hope he does. His record for IPL(Mumbai Indians) is phenomenal… winning five titles. He captained India in Asia Cup a couple of years ago which India won as well, and India won without Kohli. To win a title without him spoke volumes of that team’s strength. So he has had success in big tournaments. He has a good team. So hopefully they can all turn it around.

You’ve been part of the Indian cricket squad at vital junctures. You’ve led the team when perhaps it needed you most and then you turned it around when you came back as a cricket administrator. So at this point, when some of us are talking about Indian cricket at a crossroads, are you enjoying the job? It’s also a challenge for you, is it not?

For me, every job is a challenge. I first played for India in 1996, then I was made the captain, then I became CAB President and I am BCCI President now… every job had its own challenge. It’s the same thing with Rahul (Dravid) and Rohit (Sharma). It’s the same thing with Virat (Kohli) who did so well as a leader. At this level, with such intensity, with such quality players, with so much at stake, everything is a challenge. You just have to find ways to succeed. And I am sure everyone needs a challenge in their life. It makes you happy when you do well under testing situations because that’s the way it is. It makes you believe you are good enough to do it. It’s not just me. It’s the president, the secretary, the treasurer, the joint secretary, the BCCI staff… we all work together to run such a humongous operation because cricket in India is a huge operation to run. And it has been good so far.

This bit of a controversy over the shifting of captaincy from Virat Kohli to Rohit Sharma for which Kohli fans across the country have had some disappointment. You have already explained your position and it was a joint decision of the Board and the selectors. Would you explain how you think this decision is beneficial to Indian cricket in the long run?

It’s like I said… I personally requested him (Kohli) not to give up T20 captaincy. Obviously, he felt the workload. Which is fine, he has been a great cricketer, he has been very intense with his cricket. He has captained for a long period of time and these things happen. Because I have captained for a long period of time; therefore, I know. Also, they wanted only one white-ball captain. And that’s why this decision. I don’t know what’s going to happen in future. But as I said, it’s a good team and it has some fantastic players and I hope they will turn it around.

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But why is one white ball captain important when there are different formats of the game with the same ball?

A good team does not have too many leaders. That’s probably the reason and that’s what it is.

Talking about your challenges… It’s been a couple of challenging years for you as well in the wake of the Covid19 situation. You’ve struggled to organise international tournaments in this country. The IPLs have had to be played elsewhere. Where do you see things standing about a year from now?

I think we have gone past it and the worst is over. Hopefully, we can get back IPL in India next year because it’s India’s tournament and it’s a different atmosphere when it’s played in India. International cricket is on. We hosted New Zealand. We are going to South Africa. West Indies and Sri Lanka will follow. So I think the worst is over. We have succeeded in completing the IPL in spite of all the Covid issues by taking it to Dubai. The sports authorities in Dubai have been exceptional. Our domestic cricket is on in full flow like it was before. Last year was a bit of a break because of the Pandemic. We have almost completed every tournament. The Ranji Trophy starts in January. The junior cricket is on. And there has been no positive cases (of Covid) so far.

But there is this fresh scare for Omicron and its origin from South Africa. Does that bother you currently?

Not yet. We will assess the situation in due course and see what happens.

You introduced pink ball cricket in this country. What’s the future?

It is the future, especially in test cricket. The simple reason is it brings people back to the game after a day’s work. Because people don’t have time off from their day to day work to watch a five-day test match. I remember, in Kolkata, it was a packed house at the Eden Gardens. You see it in Australia, New Zealand. You see people filling up the stands. Hopefully, the next pink ball test match in India will fill up the stands too.

So you are planning to make pink ball cricket a regular affair?

Yes, of course, and I think everyone at BCCI feels the same way.

You are also battling against time in terms of your tenure as the BCCI chief. What’s next for you?

It’s an honour to be the BCCI president and secretary and it comes with a tenure (smiles) and that has been the case for the last 50 years. And that’s what is going to be the case for the next 50. So do your job and move away. Simple.

And hope that someone who takes the baton from you does an equally good job…

Yes, of course… There will always be good people. You see where Indian cricket is today is because the past administrators have done a great job during their time. That’s why it’s so strong and healthy and much above most cricket which goes on in other parts of the world. They have done a great job to bring it here. I will carry the baton for three years and then somebody else will take over.

Any word on Rahul Dravid who has taken up a very important job?

I wish him all the best. I heard that in Kanpur, after the day’s practice he was picking up the cones and wickets and balls and bringing them back to the dressing room. It must have been a great sight for cameramen and photographers to see Rahul Dravid do that (smiles). But he is that sort of a person. We will support him and Rohit and Virat in test cricket whichever way they want.

For Sourav Ganguly followers there was a bit of a scare a few months ago. You had to make repeated visits to the hospital. With the kind of workload you are currently shouldering, I am sure you are doing absolutely well. In terms of physical activities, are you looking forward to them more and more?

Oh yes… I am back to full physical fitness. You see, I am new (smiles). I have been shooting (for TV), I work for BCCI, I’ve been travelling. So far it’s been very good.

You are pretty regular on television and you have been maintaining long work hours…

It’s twice a week schedule for that… so it’s fine.

Let me wrap this interview by asking you this mandatory journalistic question, which you must have been bored of by now: Sourav Ganguly and politics… how far does that legendary gap between the cup and the lip still remain?

(Laughs) As they say, when you finish a show, keep watching this space. So please keep watching this.

So the space remains open…Hahaha… You’ll see.

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