February 8, 2001

Ganguly not impressed by Aussie winning streak

Indian captain Sourav Ganguly appears to be distinctly unimpressed by the 15 match-winning streak Australia brings with them to India next week. Speaking to reporters on the second day of the conditioning camp in Chennai, Ganguly exuded confidence that India packed a punch for the Aussies in the backdrop of familiar conditions. "They (Australia) have won most of their games at home, beaten West Indies 5-0 at home, beaten India, Pakistan at home. They toured here in '96 and lost. They toured here in '98 and lost. So obviously that's going to be at the back of their mind. I agree they're playing good cricket for the last 12 months but it's going to be a different ball game when they come here."

Ganguly was unwilling to be drawn into a discussion on the kind of pitches he expected for the upcoming series. "You'll find out when the Test match starts, I think. Enough of talk has been going on about wickets. When I read the newspapers, everybody is making comments. I think it's better we all find out when the Test match starts." But Ganguly came down hard on Steve Waugh's reported remarks that it was unfair for the Indian Board to influence the preparation of wickets. "I didn't read that. I haven't read it. The only thing I'll say is how does he know what's happening from Australia. We've never said anything yet. I don't think its possible for him to comment on that by sitting in Australia."

Asked about Brett Lee's withdrawal from the tour, Ganguly said "We're not bothered about what team they come with. We're bothered about our cricket and how we play. We've come here to get together, work hard and improve our game." He also showed scant interest in a query about the weaknesses of the Australians, saying he was more concerned about his own team's strengths and weaknesses, not the opponent's.

On another scorching day, Wright locked himself up for virtually the entire morning session doing a range of fielding drills, leaving Anil Kumble, S Venkataraghavan and TA Sekhar to oversee the nets. "I think it's more about putting together a balanced bowling attack, being very disciplined in the way you bowl and that has to be backed up by good fielding, so I'm really not telling them anything new, to be honest. Discipline is the word that springs to mind and accuracy in the field, ground fielding and catching particularly." .

Wright said the team was making maximum use of Kumble's fortuitous presence at the camp for therapy on his shoulder. "Since his operation, it's very important in the early stages that Anil gets physiotherapy every day and the Board has kindly approved that he should be here with Andrew Leipus. So while he's here, we'll make him work. He's helping organise the nets and run them and do all the time-keeping, so he's got a type of management role, as well as passing on his help to the youngsters and Venkat's exactly the same. We're in Chennai, so Sekhar's also here. I don't believe as a coach you know everything and if you can bring in people that can help, it's a good thing. I don't have any problems with that."

Both captain and coach gamely tried to put a positive spin on the ammunition available at the camp in Kumble's absence. "You can't fill the gap which Kumble has created because of his injury. Somebody who's got nearly 600 international wickets, you can't have a Kumble in one day. We'd love to if we could have that but we've got youngsters here who're working hard and we'll see how they bowl in the Test matches", said Ganguly. "I think they're very promising and in the last two days I've been particularly impressed by them. I would say there's a lot of potential in the young spinners we've got here and some of the older spinners, so it's a great opportunity for them", Wright added.

Ganguly said it had been 'fantastic' working with Wright for the last two months. "We've had a great time with him and I hope he's also had a great time with us. He's still got a long way to go, it's too early for us to pass judgement on each other. We're here to work together and that's what we're going to do. We're not just looking at the Australian series but one full year of international cricket."

For his part, Wright observed that the positive impact of captaincy on Ganguly's batting was evidence enough that he was at ease with the responsibility. "He's been the captain and any leader must enjoy that role. Captaincy is like anything else, like coaching. You keep learning and you've got to enjoy what you're doing. Sourav seems to enjoy it. The other thing is he's batting very well, that's a great sign when it almost improves the batting of a player when they take up leadership, so that's good." Ganguly averages an impressive 56 in 29 ODI's as captain and 68.6 in three Tests in the same role thus far. But the coming series should offer a more accurate barometer of how well he is able to cope with the perils of a high-pressure job.