Sourav Ganguly might well be Indian cricket’s favorite son. There have been better players over the years – he was even down the pecking order of batters in his own team he captained – but Ganguly holds a special reverence.
Hailing from an affluent family, he was nicknamed the ‘Prince of Calcutta’ and Ganguly’s attractive left-handed batting suitably was majestic. It was easy to label him white collar, but Ganguly had a bucket load of blue collar. Ever tenacious, he had a knack of getting under the skin of opponents. He was once even able to rile ice cool former Australian captain Steve Waugh during a pre-match coin toss.
Ganguly’s streetfighter instincts gave India a nastier edge they previously had lacked. They memorably were able to defeat Waugh’s unstoppable team in a series for the ages in 2001 and then drew in Australia two years later.
Ganguly’s hardnosed captaincy became the template and you can see parallels with current skipper Virat Kohli, whose formative years were spent watching Ganguly’s India team come of age as they mixed fire with fire against the intimidating and all-conquering Australians.
The 47-year-old will be expected to muster those characteristics when he becomes the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) president on October 23. Since his retirement from international cricket in 2008, Ganguly has continued to be a prominent figure in Indian cricket as the president of Cricket Association of Bengal and an influential television commentator.
Ganguly was the only candidate to file his nomination for the top post after being unanimously chosen as the presidential candidate. It is a powerful posting heading the sport’s richest governing body with the BCCI essentially cricket’s cash cow through the country’s one-billion strong fanatical population.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) is the BCCI’s money spinner and the sport’s most glamorous franchise league. On field, India are similarly successful with the Test team ranked No.1 in the world.
Undeniably it has strong clout, however, the BCCI has been muddied by ugly legal battles and accusations of corruption and match-fixing in the IPL – which has tarnished its glow.
Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals were handed two-year bans in 2015 after a probe into betting and fixing in the IPL. For the past three years, the BCCI had intervention from the Supreme Court of India culminating in the appointment of a Committee of Administrators to oversee administrative affairs.
Ganguly’s reverential image in India is hoped to be a tonic for the BCCI’s slumping perception. He has claimed he didn’t pursue the plum gig but, instead, was headhunted for the role.
“I’m happy… as it’s a very important time in Indian cricket administration because of what has happened in the last three years,” Ganguly said. “To be in a position where I can make a difference is extremely satisfying. We have a lot of things to do, hope we can put the house in order.”
There are some immediate hotbed issues he has to grapple with. The futures of Indian legend MS Dhoni and coach Ravi Shastri – who he hasn’t had the rosiest of relationships with – are a couple of early dilemmas for Ganguly.
“I will find out from the selectors when I meet them on October 24. We will find out what the selectors are thinking, and then I will put forth my opinion,” Ganguly said of 38-year-old Dhoni. “We will have to see what Dhoni wants. I will also speak to him about what he wants to do and what he does not want to do.”
After much negativity over the BCCI’s – and to a lesser extent fellow heavyweights Australia and England – skewed revenue share in the sport hatched controversially in 2014, the BCCI’s ironclad grip on the International Cricket Council (ICC) has loosened slightly in recent times and its financial distribution scaled back. In trademark combative style, Ganguly has shot straight from the hip.
“We have not received money that we deserve from the ICC in the last three-four years. We generate 70-75 percent in revenues. That’s one of the agenda, surely,” he said.
Gazing on-field, Ganguly believes India should be dominating international cricket across the board. Even though they are on top of the newly minted World Test Championship, India have not lifted a major trophy since 2013. At the World Cup mid-year, India fell in the semi-final after a shock loss to New Zealand.
India next year will be looking to win their first T20 World Cup since the inaugural edition in 2007 and will host the 50-over World Cup in 2023.
“I’m not saying they need to win every time. It’s not possible. But we have gone through seven big tournaments without winning one,” Ganguly said. “They are a much better side than that. That is the only area where they need to get themselves ready mentally.”
Sourav Ganguly has always succeeded through a mixture of charm and cunning bringing him much respect – and a few enemies along the way. His biggest challenge might well be ahead.