Inside Sourav Ganguly’s Journey Into Cricket, Captaincy And Entrepreneurship
When Sourav Ganguly reflects back to his childhood, he comes across as any other Bengali kid from an affluent family—with a mother who stressed on the importance of academics and mathematics, a father who wanted him to excel in sports and evenings spent on the playground with para (local) friends.
At the same time, his childhood was equally unusual. With no obligations to being a breadwinner, Ganguly chose to pursue cricket from within the many sports he indulged in. “I actually played every sport in school and wasn’t just a pushover, definitely not in football. Maybe not as good as cricket but cricket is something I pursued over time, practised, trained and got better at,” he told Sundar Raman, chief executive officer of Reliance Industries Ltd.’s sports division in an interview. Fondly known as ‘dada’ (elder brother), the current BCCI President was speaking at a panel organised by Ascent eConclave.
Even then, he didn’t think of cricket as a career. He would go on to play in the under-15 and under-19 divisions, followed by the esteemed Ranji Trophy and even debuted for Indian one-day cricket against West Indies in 1992. But it wasn’t until his first international test series four years later that he realised his path.
“England in 1996 and getting back-to-back 100s in test cricket, that’s when I thought I could do this,” he said. This is still Ganguly’s most memorable match, he said at a later point in the conversation. The test match, won over by Ganguly and Rahul Dravid’s batting partnership, at Lord’s cricket stadium is referred to as one that altered the course of Indian cricket.
“I still remember going into the press conference and they said ‘you proved everybody wrong’. And I told them this thought never entered my mind. What I’m happy now is that I can sit back and tell myself that you're good enough at this level.”
Ganguly considers himself fortunate to have found success in international cricket that early in his career—unlike most others who have to win over the trust and respect of their seniors.
Transition To A Leader
One of the most successful captains of the Indian cricketing history, Ganguly remembers being nervous before his first team meeting as captain. “I had my first meeting in Kochi,” he said. “I still remember I walked into the room and wanted to finish that meeting in 10-15 minutes because I saw three captains sitting there—Azhar (Mohammed Azharuddin), Sachin (Tendulkar) and Ajay (Jadeja)—and three people who are good enough to be captains—(Anil) Kumble, Dravid and (Javagal) Srinath.”
However, he “settled down” into his role after the first few games and attributes this to finding strength within himself and from his team. “It’s like taking a deep breath and telling yourself don’t be a fool.”
Ganguly addressed the match-fixing scandal of 2000, saying that he was unaware of the proceedings. The media reports and consequent talk around it seemed improbable, he said, remembering a few occasions where he asked his peers about their views. His memory, still, is predominated by the success they achieved because of the team and friendships formed within.
Great teams, great organisations have great mates playing together and that’s very, very important.Sourav Ganguly, Former Captain of Indian Cricket Team, Current BCCI President
‘Everything Has A Shelf Life’
Drawing parallels between cricket and business, the sportsman said there a natural end to every role. A cricketer’s shelf life, however, is considerably shorter than a businessman’s, he said.
When you nicked a Glen McGrath (delivery) in the first over of a test match, you can’t go to the umpire of a game (and) say can you revert your decision and that you want to bat again.Sourav Ganguly, Former Captain of Indian Cricket Team, Current BCCI President
Apart from that, both business and sports need a combination of young and old blood to succeed, he said. “The reason why we were so good in that era is because with the likes of Rahul, Sachin, Kumble and the rest, there were also the likes of Yuvraj (Singh), Harbhajan (Singh), (Virender) Sehwag and Mohammed Kaif and a young Zahir Khan coming in.” Similarly, even businesses require the energy of young men along with the wisdom of elder ones, he said.
Speaking about his role as a mentor, Ganguly said it’s the team that matters. “Teams are built on persistence, on backing youngsters and backing talent most importantly,” he said. “It’s the same in corporate world where you back the best and allow them the platform to perform.”
Ganguly, The Entrepreneur
Having remained within the cricketing world even after retirement, the day-to-day challenge of performing well is the only thing Ganguly misses, he said. He now fills this gap with a different kind of excitement—one that he gets from creating.
“I love youth and I love people being successful,” he said. “When I see a young or middle aged businessman succeed, it instills confidence in your, that hey if you can, I can.”
Ganguly has made multiple investments in personalised digital video curation platform Flickstreet and is also building his first private school which will educate children from pre-toddlers to college level. Cricket will be part of the curriculum, he said.
I miss the challenge in life. So I look for it. Everything in life now gives me a second chance.Sourav Ganguly, Former Captain of Indian Cricket Team, Current BCCI President
Watch the full conversation here: