Just like his cover drives, Sourav Ganguly was at his flowing best in an exclusive chat with NDTV. The Prince of Kolkata spoke on a range of topics that included England's over-the-top celebration at The Oval earlier this week and the future of four 'special' cricketers - Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh -- whose careers blossomed under his captaincy. Ganguly spoke on his 'controversial' dream Indian teams and why he is happy doing reality shows on TV. Excerpts:
NDTV: I know everyone celebrates after winning a Test match but surely no excuses for soiling the pitch (Some England players urinated on the Oval pitch after their 3-0 Ashes win)
Sourav Ganguly: I can only laugh at that. I did not see the celebrations as England had already won the Ashes a Test match before the fifth game at Oval. But I saw the newspaper the next day and saw Alastair Cook and Matt Prior waiting for a bus to get to the hotel. England were a far better side than Australia but the celebrations were a bit exaggerated. When England beat Australia the happiness is beyond boundaries but I guess the celebrations were a bit exaggerated.
NDTV: English authorities have launched an investigation. What do you think will be a suitable punishment for them?
Sourav Ganguly: I don't think you need punishment. A quiet word of not doing it again will be fine. They are matured people and not school boys...I don't think this deserves punishment. Have fun but there are other ways to celebrate a series win. (Watch full interview)
NDTV: We saw you taking off a shirt at Lord's. What is the most outrageous thing that your team has done to celebrate?
Sourav Ganguly: I think Lord's was good, they were not out of control but I guess after winning at the Wanderers (Johannesburg) they went berserk in the dressing room ... but it was all in the dressing room. There was a lot of enjoyment beating South Africa in South Africa under Dravid's captaincy. Some people were drinking, those who weren't into alcohol were drinking Pepsi and other things, there was dinner, spilling was going on players' heads and kit bags but not on the pitch. So, that's best we have done in my career. When we beet Pakistan in Pakistan, we couldn't do much, there was too much security so the fun was only in dressing room but nothing close to what the English players did.
NDTV: You have brought out a list a dream XI for Tests and ODIs. Dhoni has said that you can't do something like this as you can't compare players from different eras. Kapil Dev made his list and left himself out of both the teams but you have included yourself in both. Modesty is not your middle name
Sourav Ganguly: I think people didn't get the bigger picture. I told the television network to please keep me out of it. I think in the past I have done this once with me not being part of the team. What Kapil Dev did was right, but my network said that we want you to be in the team as we believe you can be a part of the teams. Kapil Dev, if he picks himself in any side, will fit into it. I agree with Dhoni that picking a dream team isn't easy but that doesn't mean that we are showing any disrespect to anyone.
NDTV: But the fact that you have left out Prasanna, Bishan Singh Bedi and Chandrasekhar has ruffled quite a few feathers
Sourav Ganguly: Don't think it's about ruffling any feathers as this dream team wouldn't play. This is my dream team, I have picked whom I felt who could be in my team, this is my opinion. I think when Dhoni picks a team, there are people upset about it, when i picked team, those who were left out felt upset about it, when someone left me out i felt upset about it. That's the part and parcel of the job but as i said, it's not to disrespect anyone. I just felt that these people would be in my team and this is just an opinion.
NDTV: Another opinion is about Yuvraj and Harbhajan, both are out of the team. Gambhir and Sehwag are also out. Whom would you like to see wearing Indian colours now?
Sourav Ganguly: Difficult to say but whoever performs well as this is a selection based on performance. The young players have done well especially in England and the West Indies but that's not the end of everything. In sport, you can't predict what is going to happen six months down the line. I am once again going to say that these are great players. Yuvraj SIngh has been India's great ODI player, Virender Sehwag is probably the best opening batsman I have seen after Sunil Gavaskar, his records speak about his ability. Sehwag is 32-33, you can't write them off. Will they make a comeback, only time will tell because it depends on how they play and how many runs they get. People like Dhawan and Vijay came to the squad because guys like Sehwag and Gambhir failed. So that's a rule in sports, if you don't get runs, somebody else walks in. Once again I say you can't write off such great players. You forgot Zaheer Khan's name... Yuvraj Singh in ODI, Harbhajan in both forms of the game, so they need to wait for the opportunity.
NDTV: One name that makes it to both your dream teams is Mahendra Singh Dhoni. How do you rate his captaincy?
Sourav Ganguly: Terrific, I think he is one of the great captains. I have said that in the past that his record as captain is phenomenal, in one-day cricket he has won world titles, he is been part of a golden era of Indian cricket. He has done a fantastic job for India.
NDTV: Dhoni will be going to South Africa which is going to be a long and tough tour. Any advice?
Sourav Ganguly: He has been to South Africa before and he knows how tough it is. It is not going to be just a one-day combination as Test matches are a different ball game. South Africa have got a great attack, they are a very good side at home. India have to play really really well. India have been a good touring team in the past 10-11 years apart from the hiccups in England and Australia. So, I can suggest that play positive and realise that it is a hard tour. It will be a tour that will challenge a lot of players and you have to raise your game.
NDTV: India have an unfortunate record of not doing well in foreign conditions. Do you think it will change a bit?
Sourav Ganguly: Well, it has changed. May be, you are saying on the basis of the loss in Australia and England. India is much much improved side overseas compared to when i started in 1996 when we couldn't win in England and Australia but that has changed in the last decade. And I am sure that this bunch of young boys should be backed up. But yes, India's performances over the last decade has improved.
NDTV: You have said that what Sreesanth did was stupidity and a waste of talent.
Sourav Ganguly: If at all he has done that... you can't say that somebody has done a crime till it is proved but if he has then it is stupid, because I had a lot of faith in his ability as a bowler and a lot of players in Indian cricket had the same. He has done well as a Test bowler but had been a bit inconsistent which was something to do with his temperament. But if things (allegations of spot-fixing in IPL) are proved, then it is a complete waste of talent
NDTV: You have been one of the most successful Indian captains. Why are people saying that India is no longer a force to reckon with in Test but masters in ODIs?
Sourav Ganguly: I don't think so people are doing that. You need to give them some time and as I said, they have played overseas and at home in the past 10-11 years. Yes, we have had a hiccup in Australia and England but we have an opportunity this season in South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia to improve our performance and I don't agree with the tag. Yes, They are a very good limited overs side but in Test matches too they have given results.
NDTV: Do you think Sachin should retire after South Africa?
Sourav Ganguly: It's his decision. He has done a lot for world cricket and let him decide the time as he deserves it.
NDTV: Your wife Dona wrote in a paper that you took to your show 'Dadagiri' like a duck to the water? Do you do much rehersals?
Sourav Ganguly: No, I don't do much rehearsals. I have improved with time, this is my third year. I have got used to television, it's different from playing, it's fun because it takes my mind away from the game. It's a different avenue and I have enjoyed it.
NDTV: So whom did you pick tips from... Sidharth Basu, Amitabh Bachchan or Shahrukh Khan?
Sourav Ganguly: I watched all of them, but then now I do it my way.
NDTV: Shahrukh Khan or Amitabh? Who was better?
Sourav Ganguly: You are asking me too many questions... they are good...Mr Bachchan's KBC has done very well, SRK has got his own charisma, he is a showman, his recent film Chennai Express has done well. SRK does well in other aspects of life, you won't expect Mr Bachchan to jump and dance around. Both have huge following, Mr Bachchan is looked up all around the world with so much respect and SRK has a massive following both in India and overseas.
NDTV: Film director Rituparno Ghosh offered you a role?
Sourav Ganguly: Yes, he did about four years back but I didn't do as I am not good enough. I would restrict it to the cricket field, I would rather be contributing for the game which is love and passion for all of us and I could contribute to the team in which ever way as this is what I have done for the whole of my life.
NDTV: Does your daughter miss you as a cricketer or she is happy to have you at home?
Sourav Ganguly: She is happy to have me at home although she doesn't get much time due to school, her tuitions and sports. She has her own life and now father has to take out time to be with her. I think she is happy to see dad at home and when she was growing up, she was travelling with me as I was playing for India.
NDTV: You still look fit, whats the mantra?
Sourav Ganguly: I train with the Bengal boys in the morning, I have my own gym at home but I don't enjoy it. I have done it for 25 years, I must have run almost half of Calcutta, so I don't enjoy it but I need to do it. You don't want to look like a potato but it takes a lot of hard work to stay fit...when you played cricket you did nets but now you need to work double hard as it is not the natural way of losing weight.
NDTV: What role for Dada next?
Sourav Ganguly: I don't want to be in politics, I want to be involved in the game as it gives me a lot of happiness and will find out more opportunities and make the most of it.
NDTV: On Sachin in Rajya Sabha?
Sourav Ganguly: I asked Sachin what is he doing in Rajya Sabha? Obviously he was nominated by the President of India, I hope he does well in what ever he does as I have a tremendous respect for him for what he has achieved for Indian cricket. I have seen him closely when he was at his best, I have got terrific admiration for him. For whatever he does, he does it well and he makes his family and his country proud.
NDTV: On Sachin getting the Bharat Ratna
Sourav Ganguly: I hope Sachin gets the Bharat Ratna. He is India's Bharat Ratna!