His mates swear by him, his opponents swear at him; ever since he made his debut in 1996 with a fairytale century at Lord's, he has held a cricket-crazy nation in his thrall. In the midst of an improbable comeback, on the cusp of a career milestone, Sourav Ganguly ruminates on hopes and dreams; on ambitions and checks; on wishes and fulfillment -- and on what the future holds for him.
On playing his 100th Test:
Feels great. It is a big landmark for any cricketer. Playing for India was a dream come true, so playing 300 ODI's and now 100 Test matches is something very special. MCG .26th December Boxing Day Test match big day for me.
On those who are responsible for his success:
I may be performing artist on the stage, but there is huge orchestra behind me that creates the ultimate melody of success. My family is so dear to me. Right from my school days my father always encouraged me to pursue sport. My father Chandi Ganguly was actively involved in Cricket Association of Bengal. He was honorary secretary and then went on to become vice-president and chairman of the board of trustees. My brother Snehashish played for Bengal at the highest level. The overall atmosphere in our house had a flavour of cricket. That time no one thought that some one from our family will play for India, that too 100 test matches. This is truly beyond imagination. Right from my early days [5 years] I remember watching each and every test match played at Eden Garden. Normally in traditional Bengali families young ones are encouraged to study and not to play sport. I feel lucky to have such parents who encouraged me to play cricket.
On whether it was a tough ride:
If you are going to play any sport at the international level for 12-13 years it is going to be tough. If you are blessed with the ability of [Sachin] Tendulkar or [Brian] Lara then it may be different. For players like me it is never easy. You will be going through phases when you will not be performing. You cannot be performing at your best all the time. There will be times when you may be left out of the team that has happened to me after playing almost 10-11 years. With god's grace and determination I have managed to come out of it.
On what it takes to be successful at the international level:
It is a very demanding thing to wake up every day and perform to your potential. The efforts you put in every day, not only in the match but in preparation. You will have failures more than successes. One has to learn to come out of failures and find out a way to succeed. You will have days when you feel that nothing is going right for you. But then you will have to wake up next morning and pump up yourself, telling yourself that this is going to be my day.
On leading the Indian team:
Critics may say that I was a natural leader or dominating leader. I would say that I had my own ways of leadership. I have never imposed anything on any one. I have been tough on the cricket field because I believe that's where results come from. Off the field I forget what happened on the field and mix with the players. I have had results too. I may have used harsh words to my players but at the back end, all of them knew that this man will ultimately support me.
On high points in his career:
There are quite a few. First come first, playing my 1st test match at Lords was special. Becoming captain was another proud moment. Getting successes aa a team was satisfying. Winning the Test and ODI series in 2004 against Pakistan. Playing tough cricket in Australia. Reaching 2003 World Cup Final and also playing the finals of 2000 and 2002 Champions trophy tournament. Beating Australia at home after they had beaten everyone. These are some of the highpoints in my career.
On that particular PEPSI advertisement:
Neither I nor spectators can forget that ad. For me it was just a commercial ad. All of us know that it has got nothing to do with hard realities of life. I have seen people like Sachin singing, players dancing and some of them wearing all sorts of clothes. To be honest I was reluctant to shoot that particular ad. I knew what the reactions would be. It was just Pepsi's way of selling Pepsi.
On making his debut and staging comeback:
These two are totally different things. When you are young and you are playing your 1st Test match, you are more than excited. You are fearless at that age. When you are trying to stage a comeback, the situation is totally different. You have been successful for 10-11 years. While I was staging a comeback, I was on a tough tour of South Africa. In 1996 when I was making my debut, I had nothing to loose. And in 2006-07 if I wouldn't have done well I wouldn't have played again ever and that is why comeback was tougher.
On being a proud Indian:
Of course I am an extremely proud Indian. Whenever I listen to our national anthem I can immediately feel goose pimples. The wordings are such that it automatically inspires you. Reaching the World Cup Final in 2003 and before the match listening to Jana...Gan.... man .. Oh my God it was something else.
A few of his favourite players:
For me Sachin Tendulkar is the best player I have come across. More pleasure is we played for the same team that too for number of years. Then Brian Lara. Sachin and Lara are so gifted cricketers. Both of them are blessed with talent and they do whatever it takes to be successful at the international level. Wasim Akram was such a bowler who can do wonders with the cricket ball. The ball may be new or old, Wasim can be equally lethal. And Glen McGrath for his accuracy, day in and day out, Glen can bowl on one spot. Last one is Jacques Kallis for his all-round ability with bat and ball. Kallis has scored more than 9000 Test runs and got more than 200 wickets under his belt, even better than Sir Gary Sobers.
On the part his wife Dona has played in his life:
The best thing about Dona is she doesn't talk cricket much. She will just ask how many runs I scored and did I enjoy playing that's it. Whether I played cricket or would not have played cricket it wouldn't have mattered her. Our love started much before I started playing 1st class cricket. She has been a balanced person all throughout. I don't think that it is difficult to be Sourav Ganguly's wife. She leads her life and that is the way it should be. She is a top class Odissi performer. She has been practicing performing art when she was young. It is her love for this dance form, which takes her to many places. She gets real satisfaction by teaching Odissi dance to many kids. Dance is close to her heart. Doing dance shows is her passion, and most of the time she does it by spending from her own pocket. It is not her profession, it is her passion and love.
On the time he was out of the Indian team:
You come to know the importance of your family when there are real problems. In a city like Kolkata, where we don't produce top class international players often, the pressure of expectations is more. I think one has to learn to enjoy this part of life. Think positively, keep working hard and move on.
On plans to play a role in social or public life:
I get a lot of admiration from all across India. I realise that people in Bengal love me so much. I do play a small role in social life by helping needy people. Firstly I want to help young boys in Bengal, to get them know what it takes to be successful at the international level. What they need to do to perform at the top. I really want to see some more test and ODI players from this part of India to represent the Indian team for 5-7 even 10 years. Talking about playing a role in social life, I would like to see how I can contribute and make a major difference.
On the journey thus far:
The journey has been satisfying. I treat the Indian dressing room as my second home and my team members as my family. For the last 12 years I have been part of the Indian dressing room. As a young kid I have seen greats like Kapil Dev and [Dilip] Vengsarkar. And now talking about our era .I was extremely fortunate to share dressing rooms with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman, [Virender] Sehwag, Harbhajan [Singh]...these are a few names who has served Indian cricket with great pride. The dressing room is one area where we get to see a lot of emotions, happiness, sorrow, joy, anger .It is all for one cause the game of cricket that we want to win for India. I would say that it has been a pleasant place but at the same time extremely high voltage place. Overall it has been a wonderful journey. This is what I wanted to do as child. I loved the game so much, never thought that one day I would represent my country. And now this fantastic occasion has come, as I will be playing my 100th Test match.