Mickey Arthur - Walks the talk

South Africa's coach pays his tributes to one of India's greatest leaders ever

Wednesday, October 08, 2021
Sourav Ganguly - Indian warrior

Sourav Ganguly's legacy to Indian cricket will be the toughness for which they are now known. He was the first Indian captain to stand up to intimidation and refused to back down when confronted with aggression.

He was a fine leader of men – not universally popular but always respected which is the test of a true captain. You don't have to be liked to be respecte

As a batsmen there was a perception that he was weak and vulnerable against the short ball and he was often targeted by bowlers in that area. But many opponents, South Africa included, made the mistake of confusing the way he looked with what he was actually doing. Just like Steve Waugh, Sourav could look awkward against the short ball but it didn't stop him scoring hundreds.

He scored a brilliant century against Australia at the Gabba and another against England with Steve Harmison firing away from around the wicket. Whatever he may have lacked in technique was more than compensated for with courage and determination.

He has incredibly quick hands which also allow him to get away with certain idiosyncrasies in his technique and there were very few cleaner strikers of the ball than him.

He played two brilliant innings in the Test series against South Africa in March, the second of which – on a terrible wicket in Kanpur – made the difference between India losing the series and drawing it. It was, like many of his greatest innings, incredibly frustrating because he always looked as though he was going to give us a chance but when he eventually did, it was too late.

I always thought of Sourav as a 'warrior', full of pride and honour, qualities which can be very easily mistaken for arrogance and aloofness. But that certainly wasn't my experience of the man.

I am very proud to count myself amongst his friends, we have always got on exceptionally well and I value his insight and honesty. Much of what I know about India and Indian cricket I learned from Sourav. We have had many, fascinating conversations covering topics as diverse as the player contract system to the Indian media and culture.

I remember listening intently to him describing some aspects of his life, particularly family life, when there is so much attention from the media and the public, and such an intense spotlight. There are many undeniable benefits of being a 'celebrity' sports star like Sachin, Rahul, Anil and Sourav, but there are also some parts of every day life that are no fun at all. I imagine Sourav would love to go to the movies with his family one day and just be part of the audience – but I doubt that day will ever come.

Through much of the 1990s South African and Australian teams believed they could 'bully' India teams with an aggressive attitude and, to be honest, it was true, especially when the Indian team was overseas on tour. But Saurav decided to change that. Just because the natural Indian demeanour was calm and gentle, he reasoned, that was no reason to be pushed around. And with people like Harbhajan in the team now that policy looks set to continue for some time to come!

I hope Sourav decides to make a future in the game because we will all benefit if his cricket brain and forthright approach remains applied to a subject he knows more intimately than most.

All he has to do now to ensure the perfect send-off is help India to beat Australia. Good luck Sourav!