Australia v India, 1st Test, Brisbane, 4th day December 7, 2003

Grace under pressure



Sourav Ganguly: has the heart for the big occasion
© Getty Images

Sourav Ganguly gave further evidence of a new-found calm, and composure, at the press conference that followed the close of play on day four at the Gabba. In an earlier avatar, he may have used the opportunity to thumb a nose at his critics, but today, he was diplomacy itself, deflecting the trickiest questions with the same fluency that characterised his innings.

"It was a dream to score a hundred in Australia," he said. "All Test hundreds are important, but this will be a special one. It came against the best team in the world, and when I walked out to bat, the scoreboard read 62 for 3."

He was quick to give credit to Greg Chappell who had worked with him in Sydney a while before India's home season started. "He helped a lot. We talk often, and he did a few things with my technique and also helped with my thought process. I haven't changed anything. Maybe just my attitude."

When asked if the innings would quiet those who had labelled him the weak link in the Indian batting line-up, he said, "I'm not going to get into that. I have my job to do, they have theirs ... I believe in my ability."

He was pleased with the partnerships that helped India to a position of strength, and singled out VVS Laxman for special praise. "He batted beautifully, but Akash [Chopra] and Sehwag, too, got runs. Parthiv also contributed."

India's best batsmen, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, contributed just one run between them, and Ganguly saw the final score as an immensely positive sign. "We'll do well if we play like that. I don't need to say anything about Rahul and Sachin. They will make runs."

He merely smiled and said, "I'm not supposed to comment on that, am I?" when asked about Steve Bucknor's controversial leg-before decision against Tendulkar. Speaking a few minutes later, Jason Gillespie, the fortuitous bowler, raised a few laughs when he said, "It was a bit of a surprise, yeah. I'd appealed for so long and not got a response ..."

Ganguly was clearly pleased with the manner in which India's openers shaped, saying, "I've always believed that Sehwag is a class act, and they both complement each other well."

After a horrendous first day, when he let Australia make first use of a green pitch, Ganguly was delighted by the way his lads had stormed back. "I was disappointed at the end of the first day. I looked like a fool for having put them in. But we got together that evening, talked about the need to put the ball in the rights areas, and did very well after that."

He wouldn't be drawn on the possibility of a dramatic last day - as was the case when New Zealand played a rain-hit game here in 2001 - saying, "If we can make some more runs and take some early wickets, we can put some pressure on them."

Gillespie was as matter-of-fact as ever in his cameo appearance. "India played really well," he said. Asked about Ganguly, he added, "He put the loose balls away, full credit to him."

The final questions to Ganguly invariably veered around to Steve Waugh, and whether he felt his counterpart was feeling the pressure. Ganguly's relationship with Waugh was strained to the extreme during Australia's tour of India in 2001, but subsequently, there seems to have been a thaw. "He's a legend," said Ganguly. "He's had enough pressure to deal with over the past 20 years ... and he has nothing to prove to anyone."

Ganguly proved something today though. You may go on till the cows come home about his technical failings, but he's a man with the heart for the big occasion. Ernest Hemingway defined courage as grace under pressure, and 8,785 spectators, and a few dozen mediapersons, left the Gabba today having watched Ganguly give an evocative example of that adage. Indian Summer over? By the looks of it, it's only just begun.

Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo. He will be following India throughout the course of this Test series.