Exclusive: 'India has all the chances of winning WTC final', says Sourav Ganguly

ODI cricket does not need impact player and such innovations, he said

58-SOURAV-GANGULY Sourav Ganguly | Delhi capitals

WHATEVER ROLE Sourav Ganguly takes on, he goes into it full throttle. After finishing a three-year stint as BCCI president, the former Indian captain has returned to being hands-on with cricket as director of Delhi Capitals.

He has been busy watching the practice sessions, helping struggling prodigy Prithvi Shaw improve his game and reassuring the management―Delhi is at the bottom of the table after playing seven matches.

It has been hard to catch hold of Ganguly given the team’s poor form, but when he did sit down for an interview after a late evening session, the conversation went much beyond the IPL. Excerpts:

All members are keen on Test cricket, so the WTC is a step in the right direction. ―Sourav Ganguly

Q/ Was the decision to return to the IPL a hard one?

A/ I always knew that once I finished the [BCCI] president’s job, I would come and do this.

Q/ What is your dynamic with Ricky Ponting?

A/ He is a lovely bloke. He is the head coach and I am the director. He runs the cricket and I work with him. He has been with this franchise since 2018. It has been fantastic.

Q/ Your thoughts on the India-Australia World Test Championship final at the Oval in June?

A/ It will be a great final. I will be there to watch it. India has all the chances of winning if they put runs on the board, bat well. They have the bowling to pick 20 wickets. These boys have been in the WTC final last time as well, and their record against Australia, home and away, has been very good.

Q/ Cheteshwar Pujara has made a lot of runs in county cricket. Do you see him making an impact?

A/ He has done well for a long time. This is not easy to achieve in Tests.

Q/ Will India miss Rishabh Pant?

A/ Yeah, but India has enough talent.

Q/ Will the team go back to Wriddhiman Saha?

A/ There are some good keepers around. There is Saha, K.S. Bharat and Ishan Kishan. I think somewhere down the line, [India coach] Rahul [Dravid] will have to look at him (Kishan) because he can bat and change matches.

Q/ What about playing in England in early June?

A/ It will be great. The Oval is a good Test wicket. It will seam a bit as it does in England all the time. There will be a quick outfield, the pitches will have a bit of bounce and our batters will enjoy batting there. I have always said that, in one-off Tests, especially in England, you need to adjust very quickly.

Q/ Looking back, how would you describe your term as BCCI president?

A/ I enjoyed it. They wanted me to become IPL chairman, but I enjoy doing this more. This is more hands-on. I wanted to get back to this. This is what I have done all my life.

Q/ Any unfinished business left?

A/ No, [but] I hope DC will hopefully some day win a title.

Q/ DC has a lot of potential but is yet to win the IPL. Where does the problem lie?

A/ They have done pretty well in the past three seasons, 2019 to 2021. They have reached the finals (playoffs) but did not win it, unfortunately. If you reach the finals, you have to win it. We lost a few players―Pant was a big blow, as was Shreyas Iyer (Kolkata Knight Riders bought him in the 2022 auction). We will recover.

Absent ace: Rishabh Pant during the first WTC final against New Zealand in England; India will miss him and Jasprit Bumrah this time | AP Absent ace: Rishabh Pant during the first WTC final against New Zealand in England; India will miss him and Jasprit Bumrah this time | AP

Q/ How big of a blow is the absence of Pant?

A/ It has been a big blow, but you know these things happen in life. There are no guarantees. MI (Mumbai Indians) lost [Jasprit] Bumrah, KKR lost Shreyas (both to injuries); so, these things happen.

Q/ What about the Women’s Premier League. DC did well to reach the final of the maiden edition, but lost to MI.

A/ Yeah, they did very well. I was heavily involved with that―selecting, coaching, etc. I was not involved in the day-to-day running of the team, though.

Q/ Your thoughts on the WPL?

A/ It will do very well. It was a great tournament and I am sure some more teams will come in eventually.

Q/ Will this really help improve the standard of women’s cricket and make it more popular?

A/ Of course! From when [BCCI secretary] Jay [Shah] and I took over in 2019 [to now], you see the women’s team has improved enormously. The Commonwealth Games final and the World Cup semifinal, both times they should have beaten Australia. They will be a super side in the next few years.

Q/ What stops them from being champions?

A/ Australia is very, very strong. Let us accept that. They have tremendous players. That is the difference between the sides.

Q/ The Delhi team has been around since the start of the IPL in different avatars. Why has the title eluded the team?

A/ I was not involved with them before, so it is hard for me to say why. In 2019, we were close and in 2020, we reached the final.

Q/ Is there not pressure from the team owners?

A/ No, both Parth [Jindal] and Kiran [Grandhi] have been fantastic. This is my second season with them. We came close [in recent seasons]; we were not doing well before that. They understand.

Q/ What is the key to winning the IPL?

A/ It is just about getting winning performances. We have persisted with key players like [David] Warner, [Mitchell] Marsh, [Manish] Pandey and Prithvi.

Q/ You spend a lot of time with Prithvi. He has the potential but is struggling to reach the next level.

A/ He has the talent. He has got to keep working hard and keep playing. I have immense faith in him.

Q/ What are your views on innovations like ‘impact player’? Is it necessary?

A/ Yeah, it adds something different. It has been accepted by players. It was experimented with in the ODI format as ‘super sub’, but it did not work. The game keeps changing. If you look around, the South African league (SA20) [and others] have new rules.

Q/ ODIs are in danger as they struggle for space between Tests and T20Is.

A/ I am chairman of [International Cricket Council’s] Cricket Committee. I do not think ODI cricket needs that [‘impact player’ and such innovations].

Q/ Your thoughts on the health of Indian cricket since you left as BCCI president?

A/ Indian cricket is tremendous, with a strong team that has outstanding players. It will always do well.

Q/ Do you see Tests getting more impetus?

A/ I think so. All members are keen on Test cricket, so the WTC is a step in the right direction.