NEW DELHI: Sourav Ganguly, as India captain, was at the forefront when he led the team to Pakistan during the historic tour in 2004. On the eve of the game against Pakistan in Ahmedabad, TOI caught up with Ganguly for a chat.
What’s the first thing that crosses your mind about playing a game against Pakistan?
I have many fond memories of playing Pakistan, like my matches against them in Toronto. Like going to Pakistan and beating Pakistan, or the World Cup wins against them in 1999 and 2003. These are special moments. But the Pakistan tour was different. First time in 50 years, India beat Pakistan in Pakistan. World Cup was just one game, that tour was a long one, and we were treated very well.
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What was it like sharing the field with them?
I had fond memories of playing against Inzamam, Saqlain, Mushtaq Ahmed, Mohammed Yusuf and Younis Khan. Really enjoyed playing cricket with them. They were a very good team at that time. They were a better side than what they are now. They had a superior bowling attack with Wasim and Waqar. Waqar was actually very nice to play against.
As captain, how did you handle the trip to Pakistan given the diplomatic tensions?
I treated it as another game. I never looked at Pakistan as a different team and just played cricket. At the end of the day, it’s still the cricket ball and bat. Teams are used to backlash. From that point of view that’s part and parcel of professional sport. You have to learn to deal with all the negativity going around and still perform.
What’s your advice to India for this game?
I would advise India to play one game at a time. India have looked brilliant and very strong. Hopefully, it continues. World Cups are long. There are seven more games and then the semifinals. So, you have to find a way to hold on to your form for a longer period of time.
Do you prefer the same playing XI through the tournament?
If you perform it becomes a settled XI, which is the case at the moment. One odd change will happen this or that way, whether it’s Ashwin or a fast bowler.
How difficult is it to bench a senior spinner like Ashwin? You had to keep Anil Kumble out in 2003?
I don’t see it as a problem. I am happy that Ashwin is in the side.