If Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy had to be judged on how he appeared on a Cricket field, the words, which most accurately describe him, would probably be late, dishevelled and overwrought. What he looked like on the outside, however, cannot describe how and why he became India’s most successful captain.
Name: Sourav Chandidas Ganguly
His skills lay in his instinctive grasp of the one critical area that separate good captains from those who struggle in the job—man management. Ganguly largely led by instinct. His greatest asset as a captain was to ensure that players, particularly the younger ones, took to the field confident about their game and secure about their position. To rookies, being assured of enough chances to show that they belonged to the highest level was both unusual and empowering.
A good judge of talent, Ganguly backed cricketers on a single criteria: their ability to win matches. Technical unorthodoxy, personality quirks and bad-boy behaviour were all disregarded if he believed a player had the X-factor needed to win matches. He could be frustratingly stubborn when it came to backing his hunches, but he was rarely wrong. He sought counsel from senior players around him, but usually always did the opposite. It was an annoying habit and he was often proved wrong but the unequivocal message it sent out was that he was his own man and that he ran the team. He was an unconventional captain, whose young players took great liberties with him but played for him. The Indians under Ganguly were a tight unit through victory and defeat. Combative, they absorbed punches but always bounced back.
Where Ganguly slipped as a leader was when he went against the tenet his team lived by—to play for each other and to keep fighting together. His form had begun to fray in 2004, and after he controversially skipped the Nagpur Test against Australia in 2004, he lost the confidence of his own players. When they found him unable to do what he asked of them, his time as the leader ran out. But now, as he plays his last series for India, he can take pride for changing forever the way Team India plays its cricket.