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'Whenever the coach has tried to dominate there has been problems'

Last updated on: February 20, 2009 20:41 IST

Sourav Ganguly retired from international cricket last year, after the home series against Australia in early November. And before he resumes duties as captain of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the second edition of the Indian Premier League come April, he is already into something. Something quite different from any of his earlier vocations. That of a reality show host.

The show, in this case, is called Knights and Angels, and Ganguly's job is to help pick six girls who will be cheerleaders for KKR.

If the man of the moment was a bundle of nerves at a promotional event for it, you couldn't blame him. It was a different experience for him and, somehow, one couldn't help but wonder if he was doing all this at Shah Rukh Khan's (KKR team owner) insistence.

The fact that half the questions were pertaining to the show made things further difficult (and "uncomfortable") for the 'Gentleman Cricketer'.

He desperately tried to hold forth though.

So what is Ganguly's view on cheerleaders, considering there was a lot of controversy surrounding the same in the inaugural edition of the IPL?

"One has to realise that T20 is a bit of cricket and a bit of entertainment," retorted Ganguly, trying hard to be convincing in his new role.

"So one has to look at cheerleading a bit different, as something that adds to the entertainment."

But does he believe that these cheerleaders do distract players?

No, not really," said Ganguly, before adding, "A cricketer is used to playing among hordes of people and can hardly be distracted by things such as this."

A few other questions followed and the discomfort was becoming apparent when, all of a sudden, a cricket-related question was asked.

To say that Ganguly was more keen to answer those would be an understatement. To start with, what did he think of India's chances on the upcoming tour of New Zealand?

Sourav Ganguly"It will be tough. All the while we have been playing in the sub-continent," said Ganguly. "The only thing I am worried about is the lack of warm-up games. I felt the players should have been given some time to get acclimatised to the conditions." Ganguly's worry was not entirely unfounded, considering he led India on that disastrous tour to New Zealand in 2002-03.

"New Zealand is a tough side at home. And the conditions there are very difficult," reasoned the 36-year-old. "Hopefully, the boys will adjust. More importantly, Rahul (Dravid) and VVS (Laxman) should get into the groove as early as possible, for they will be crucial to the team's prospects."

But having been there, what does the team need to do to win?

"India has to bat well," came the replay. "If they have to win, then everyone, be it seniors or juniors, has to score enough runs."

And having skippered India with considerable success, what is his opinion on Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captain.

"This series will be a test for him," said Ganguly. "Till now, he has done well in the sub-continent and also on a few occasions overseas -- winning the T20 World Cup and the CB Series.

"But even with Rahul as captain, we had won in England and Ireland. I have always maintained that the captain is as good as his team and stand by that even now!"

And what about Gary Kirsten as a coach? Does the South African remind him of John Wright?

"Gary is doing a wonderful job for Indian cricket," said Ganguly, the glow in his eyes becoming palpable.

"He lets the players do their work and that is important."

What followed was, perhaps, the venting out of his frustrations (if you take pains to read between the lines that is.)

"The coach has to be friend and should not try to dominate. The captain is the most important member in the team," reasoned Ganguly. "Whenever the coach has tried to dominate there has been problems, be it in the (Kevin) Pietersen case or (Graeme) Smith. Even there were such issues in Indian cricket (read Greg Chappell).

"The coach can help only to a certain extent. And that is only about 10 per cent of the total effort. The major work has to be done by the players on the field."

The topic veered towards the second edition of the IPL and the backing out of Australian captain Ricky Ponting.

"The reason why Ricky (Ponting) didn't commit this year was because he knew he wouldn't be available for the better part of the IPL," reasoned Ganguly. "He wouldn't have joined KKR before the second week of May, owing to national commitments. And, by then, it would have been the semi-finals stage.

"But we are happy that we have Brendon (McCullum) and Chris (Gayle) available throughout."

So, is he happy with the composition of his team?

"The team is definitely strong. Last year, we had a problem with the availability of players. Therefore, this year we have picked our team keeping that in mind," he said.

"Also, the biggest factor that contributed to Rajasthan Royals doing so well last year was the fact that they had a lot of local talent involved. We are trying to make the best use of home-bred talents, like Sachin Rana and Sunny Singh, this time around."

And what about their prized-catch -- Mashrafe Mortaza?

"Mortaza is a very good cricketer," said Ganguly, defending the Bangladesh player. "Unfortunately for him, he plays for a team which hardly wins.

"Hopefully, he will do well and prove himself worthy of in a side that already has so many top class players."

But still isn't paying $600, 000 for him (Mortaza) a bit too much?

"In terms of money, when you pick players for the IPL it is not about selection. It is about bidding," reasoned Ganguly.

"Sometimes, the prices go over the roof and you have to accept that. For it depends on what the other party quotes."

Now that most of the questions had been exhausted, it was time to end on a lighter note.

There are rumours that Ganguly will contest the forthcoming elections in certain sections of the Bengali press.

"No, there's no truth in these rumours," he explained, even before the question could be completed. "I won't ever contest polls, because I don't understand politics!"

Photographs: Sanjay Sawant

Bikash Mohapatra