Dilip Sardesai memorial lecture September 7, 2012

'Indian cricket is in safe hands' - Ganguly

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Sourav Ganguly doesn't sit on the fence. He can be a contrarian at times, as when he spoke positively about the present state of Indian spin bowling. He can be extreme yet sound logical, as when he said every Indian fast bowler should have a personal trainer. And yes, he is proud of his legacy - that of changing India's image as poor travellers. He doesn't hold back - and he didn't on Friday while delivering the Dilip Sardesai memorial lecture at the Bombay Gymkhana.

Ganguly has seen plenty of young Indian fast bowlers burn out or lose their pace in a matter of a few seasons, and put it down to the lack of a proper fitness and training culture in India. "Since 2000 the main reason for having overseas coaches and trainers in India was to get a proper fitness culture," Ganguly said. "I remember on the 1996 tour of England, I went to the gym only once - that too, to see it and not to use it. It was a three-month tour and I had an outstanding tour. But I could not remember going to the gym and getting onto the treadmill. That culture needed to change. You don't get a Kapil Dev all the time.

"There is so much cricket being played in the modern day. Players are on the road all the time. Fast bowling is a difficult art. Every Indian fast bowler of the modern era needs to have a personal trainer. Finances are not a problem. They can afford it. They should have a personal trainer with them right through the year. When you go to a gym alone, at times, you take the easier, safer option. There should be someone with you looking after your strength and monitoring it all the time. When you see Zaheer Khan in 2000 and Munaf Patel in 2004 they clocked almost 150 [kph], but two years down the line, they settled down to line and length bowling, which I think is mainly because of a lack of physical strength."

Ganguly was optimistic, though, when asked by presenter Harsha Bhogle about current Indian domestic cricket not producing the high-quality spinners it used to. "When I saw Ashwin and [Pragyan] Ojha bowl in the Test matches against New Zealand, although they will have some distance to go as we have England and Australia coming, I don't feel the cupboard is empty. The problem is we Indians in domestic cricket are such good players of spin that a very good spinner is sometimes made to look average in those conditions and with players who have been brought up on spin bowling. Everytime those players graduate and play Test cricket, they look different bowlers."

One thing Indian spinners do need to learn is the art of bowling overseas, Ganguly said. "When you see the team lose eight out of eight [overseas] Tests the time has probably come when a lot of these young spinners need to bowl on flatter and non-responsive wickets in India to learn the art of bowling overseas."

"Overseas" brought with it questions on the India side of the early- and mid-2000s that, under Ganguly's leadership, began to win overseas Test matches and Test series, something India had struggled to do, especially in the 1990s. Ganguly said when he started his international career, there was "a certain disrespect" towards touring Indian sides.

"When I first played in 1996 on the tour of England, I could see a different attitude towards Indian players. We were not the best travellers abroad. You could see a certain disrespect when you went to England, Australia and South Africa. 'These boys are soft, they will come to this part of the world, you will see a hundred from Sachin, from Dravid, but they'll lose. They might draw a Test, but we will win the series.'

"I could make out that when you walked around the dressing room, the confidence was not there, the knowledge was not there of how we could beat England in England, and Australia in Australia."

Ganguly said winning the famous Kolkata Test of 2001 against Australia had given the team the belief that they could beat the best in the world. It would not have been possible, Ganguly said, without the kind of quality players he had in his team.

"I was also blessed as captain to have an era of terrific Test players - Sachin, Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble… because I am a firm believer of a captain being only as good as his team. You can take the best captain in the world but if you don't have a good team, then you will go nowhere. A perfect example is Ricky Ponting. You look at his record when Hayden, Gilchrist, McGrath and Warne were playing and once they retired. Like chalk and cheese.

"It was a conscious effort to get that culture in the team. 'Listen, we will win in India'. There have been Tests where I have stood at point, given the ball to Anil and Harbhajan, they would set the fields and we would win the match - that would not happen abroad. We didn't have the batting, the knowledge, the batting toughness to put 500 runs on the board, to win a Test when we went abroad."

Ganguly said he was confident, despite India's recent struggles overseas, that the current generation of players was capable of taking Indian cricket forward. "When I see players of the ability of Kohli, Pujara and Dhoni and some of the other young names, it makes me believe that Indian cricket is in safe hands."

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • bvnathan on September 10, 2012, 17:25 GMT

    Hi Sourav, how about getting Brett Lee, the Aussie pace sensation to become bowling coach for India speedsters? Brett has been phenomenal during his playing years both in and outside Australia. His knowledge, work ethics and to be able to maintain the strength/balance will be of great benefit.

  • Sakthiivel on September 10, 2012, 8:38 GMT

    @ SamRoy : Its ok to give a full toss in ever 2nd of over but need to pick wickets. Low full toss is wicket taking delivery in t20's I believe.

  • rosh280 on September 10, 2012, 8:15 GMT

    india 20-20 team opening should be with murali vijay and ajinka rahane. unmukt chand is the other alternative. murali vijay has mpeccable record in the 4s he has scored and sixes he hit and also he has 2 centuries andj many half centuries. jal s saxena is a great alrounder. he should be given chance. then really 20-20 will be safe in our hands. shami ahmed and varun aron should bowl and also balaji and irfan are the great choices

  • rosh280 on September 10, 2012, 7:57 GMT

    obviously i agree with saurav points that indian cricket is in safe hands. but at the same time we should have the courage to remove players underperforming like sehwag,gambhir,sachin,umesh yadav and find good replace with u nmukt chand, jalaj s saxena( a fine alrounder) he performed well in ranji trophies and india A versus westindies, akshay darekar a fine bowler wiith great potential. A fast bowler to include are shami ahmed with his performance in west indies and local matches he deserve really indian cap. p awana also like our sree santh in tests and prashant parameswaran in oneday side.mumbais fine batsman surya kumar yadav and baba aparajith , pinal shah and naman ojha and also bhuvanesh kumar he is also a fine alrounder we can choose. if we do some changes india really will be in safe hands. Aswin and pragyan ojha are the fine bowlers india found. in fast bowling we need to remove zaheer, umesh yadav and a b dinda all got real hitting in srilanka and newzealand matches.

  • dummy4fb on September 9, 2012, 19:13 GMT

    In the subcontinent, there is too much emphasis on individual excellence rather than the team. Saurav Ganguly is a very positive and optimistic man. He was the best Captain India ever had. The only other positive captain comparable to Ganguly was the Nawab of Pataudi. But Pataudi never had the great players which Ganguly had except the three great spinners but no great batsmen. Gavaskar came into the team almost after Nawab' s career was coming to a close. We indians must develop aggressive self belief iike the Aussies, South Africans or even the English. Do not get rolled over by English critics when they ridiculed Indian pacers as military medium or pop gun pace attack, which is incorrect. We tend to believe that and disrespect our fast bowlers. I feel Saurav must be made the Coach for his positivity and no nonsense approach. I like the speech made by the Ex-captain. Saurav's contribution to Indian cricket can be greater than Sachin's batting records holistically.

  • SamRoy on September 9, 2012, 16:15 GMT

    I must say Pakistan have some seriously talented young batsman in Nasir Jamshed, Ahmed Shahzad and Umar Akmal (when he is the right frame of mind). They also have good solid players in Azhar Ali and Asad Shafique. Our team India, are still playing that idiot Suresh Raina in test matches even though we have Rahane and Rohit Sharma (and now we can add Unmukt Chand to that list). Pakistan's fast bowling is looking a bit weak with Gul out of form and Junaid Khan performing once in every 3 matches. @KiwiRocker- We have no talent, yes, but we will beat you guys in the forthcoming test series and Virat Kohli is going to score double hundreds against Ajmal and co. after your team's third class fielders drop him 3 times. If you guys give 2 lives to Sehwag, he will finish Ajmal's career.

  • SamRoy on September 9, 2012, 15:54 GMT

    @Sakthiivel and @puroniks Ashwin bowls one full toss every second over and you consider him better than Ajmal! I am an Ashwin fan, I think he can become a fine cricketer but one cannot be a blind fan. Ashwin's batting is better than Raina's. I hope he never develops Bhajji's habit of bowling darts down the leg side.

  • jasonpete on September 9, 2012, 13:05 GMT

    Posted by  Deepak Muralidharan K on (September 09 2012, 05:50 AM GMT), Its ridiculous to blame entire match summary on one person when entire Indian team failed to reach even 300 runs .The main failure is the openers along with the middle order who couldn't play to their potential failed the entire Indian team.Ishant took some wickets in quick session but it was ishant who asked rest from dhoni when he wanted ishant to bowl.Its easier said than done being in dhoni's place .From an outsider point of view.

  • dummy4fb on September 9, 2012, 12:47 GMT

    Ganguly would be a poor choice as coach for the Indian team. He is too strong as a personality, and inevitably it would become a situation of having two captains, with clashing egos and factions. The Indian team functions better with coaches like Wright and Kirsten, who remain in the background.

  • Advin on September 9, 2012, 10:55 GMT

    I do not believe that people are actually saying that Ashwin is better than Ajmal.Ajmal is by far the world's best spin bowler.However the fact is that Pakistan without him is a very poor team.Why are they not producing the Inzamams or Yousufs or Saed Anwars? More disturbing is the absolute lack of fast bowling talent from a country that has produced Imran,Wasim,Waqar and Shoaib.For the first time in 40 years,the Pak pace attack is not any better than an Indian pace attack.

    I reckon that the best India Pak combined team would have Ajmal plus ten Indians !

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