Hyderabad: Three captains turned up to face the media in Hyderabad ahead of the Champions League Twenty20 qualifiers. Mahela Udawatte, of Ruhuna, looked a little lost and out of place. Matthew Hoggard, of Leicestershire, wore the broadest of smiles which lit up an otherwise humdrum interaction. Daren Ganga, of Trinidad & Tobago, was forthcoming, forceful and meant business.
Over the years, Ganga has acquired a reputation of being an insightful and capable leader of men. His replies showed that the image has been well-earned. Coming from the tempestuous Caribbean where cricket has made headlines lately mainly for off-field reasons like player contracts or spats between the board and players, Ganga would have expected what was thrown at him by the sparse gathering of reporters.
Twenty20 has made mercenaries of players all over the world, but the greatest impact has been felt in the Caribbean, already battling a steady decline in standards. "T20 will have an impact. Such is the nature of the game," Ganga said. "We have always played our cricket stylishly and aggressively in the Caribbean. So it is no wonder that T20 is attractive there."
Aggressive was the way T&T played in the inaugural Champions League in 2009, getting stopped only by New South Wales' Brett Lee in the final. Ganga wasn't surprised then, and he isn't now that T&T are back in the league as Caribbean champions. "We have dominated T20 in the Caribbean since its onset," he said in a voice that would have seemed boastful if it wasn't true. "We love to play exciting cricket."
T&T's performance in 2009 brought a lot of cheer to the country and to the Caribbean. But Ganga was quick to distinguish mere celebration from concrete results. "There was a lot of excitement in the West Indies due to our success last time. It inspired a lot of youngsters which was good to see. But whether we see a result of that [in terms of performance], time will tell."
The realistic tone of Ganga's narrative was broken when he was asked how he felt being an acclaimed leader of a side that has given the people of the region periodic respite from the depressing performances of the West Indies team. "I have been fortunate to have a bunch of players with me who have had the discipline and the drive to do well. It's the most heartening thing as a captain to see players come in at a very young age and then develop and go on to play international cricket.
"I was selected when I was 16 and Brian Lara took me under his wings and taught me about cricket and leadership. I have a lot of respect for him for what he has taught me. It is a continuation of seniors teaching juniors. Hopefully when I move on, the current players can do the same for the next generation."
He then took the distinction between T&T and West Indies a step further. "I am proud to have been part of a successful group of individuals. We as West Indies have not been known much recently for our results. Who knows in the future cricket could be an Olympic sport and we could even play as a nation."
T&T are without the services of two star players, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, both of whom have chosen to play for their respective IPL sides - Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians - in the Champions League. If T&T qualify for the main tournament, Ganga could be up against his countrymen.
His response might well be to point out that his side won the regional T20 tournament this year without the two playing a single game.