Unravelling the Ganguly enigma: aloof, arrogant, gentle and gracious

India's captain may have upset Greg Chappell and Andrew Flintoff but he has many redeeming features, writes Angus Fraser

Away from the cameras, the microphones and the responsibility of captaining the most cricket-mad country on the planet he is delightful company, and it is these qualities that have enabled him to turn a talented yet directionless group of individuals into a winning team. During his five years in charge he has put steel into a side that had previously been pushed around and bullied, and unsurprisingly this approach has upset a few people along the way.

It started in 2001 when Steve Waugh's all- conquering Australian team played a three-Test series in India. At the time Waugh was considered to be the toughest and most ruthless captain in Test cricket. Ganguly had been in charge for only three games. Legend has it that Ganguly was accidentally late for the toss on the morning of the first Test in Bombay, and kept Waugh waiting in his blazer and the heat for five to 10 minutes.

Waugh did not appreciate Ganguly's tardy time-keeping and was livid when the shy, angelic-looking young India captain arrived for the toss. Australia won the Test but Ganguly saw that he had got under Waugh's skin and in the next two Test matches he deliberately kept his opposite number waiting at each toss. Ganguly's behaviour before the start of the game, and his confrontational approach on the field took the Australians by surprise. Ganguly had got the better of the "iceman" and India won the series 2-1.

Ganguly has used different tactics against other teams with equal success, and India have won 21 and lost just 13 of the 49 games they have played while he has been in charge. And it is this, along with the relationship he has with his players, that will prevent him from losing any sleep over the recent comments made by a former Lancashire team-mate and the current national coach of India.

Ganguly has heard it all before. Since taking over from Sachin Tendulkar in November 2000 he has become accustomed to receiving criticism, whether it be about his style of leadership or batting. In India it comes with the territory. They do not hold back in expressing their views, as can be seen after embarrassing defeats when effigies of players are burnt in the streets.

Flintoff's remarks that Ganguly was not a team player during the year the India captain spent at Old Trafford come as no surprise. His relationship with Lancashire did not get off to the best of starts when, in his first game for the club, he gave his sleeveless sweater to Michael Atherton, his opening partner, and asked him to take it off the field for him. Atherton trotted to the boundary but the former England captain was not pleased.

The players' relationship with Ganguly degenerated to such an extent that once, when he had scored 50 in a televised one-day game at Old Trafford, none of his team-mates came on to the balcony to applaud. What failed to come out of Ganguly's unhappy summer in Manchester was his disappointment at the levels of professionalism shown by the players.

Flintoff, in his recently released autobiography Being Freddie, suggested that playing cricket with Ganguly was like having Prince Charles in your side. And it probably was. Ganguly comes from a very privileged background, a background where money was never going to be an issue. Yet in many ways it has been one of his biggest assets.

Indian cricket generates more income than the rest of the world combined and, as a result, is full of politics and agendas. The selection of teams used to be clouded in controversy and accusations of money changing hands were rife. But Ganguly and Chappell's predecessor, John Wright, helped turn India into a well drilled, highly regarded side.

It was the departure of Wright, an unconfrontational New Zealander who had issues with Ganguly but kept them out of the headlines, and the arrival of Chappell, an uncompromising Australian, that has caused a rift that could undermine everything that has been achieved in recent times.

Chappell replaced Wright during the summer and has already formed views on the direction the team should be taking. And, as was seen in Chappell's leaked confidential e-mail to the Indian board, Ganguly does not fit into his plans.

It is not the first time Chappell has attacked Ganguly. In 2003, before becoming the India coach, the former Australian captain stated that the left-hander was "mentally lazy" and that he "continues to squander a wonderful talent".

Ganguly's batting also attracts a lot of attention. He may not look comfortable against the best fast bowlers but it would be wrong to write him off as a player only capable of flogging indifferent attacks. He may average only 32.5 against Australia, but Atherton and Alec Stewart, two of England's recent greats, averaged 29.5 and 30.5 respectively against Warne, McGrath, Gillespie and Co.

Ganguly is a fine player who, on his day, is capable of taking apart the best bowling attacks in the world. He scored a hundred on his Test debut against England at Lord's and in nine matches against them he averages 61.

In the one-day game he has had even greater success. Ganguly is the sixth highest run scorer in the history of limited-overs cricket, and only Tendulkar has posted more than the 22 hundreds he has hit.

In Bombay, in February 2002, Flintoff took the wicket that tied a one-day series and proceeded to take his shirt off and swing it around in front of 60,000 shocked Indian supporters. Ganguly returned the favour on the visitors balcony at Lord's when India pulled off an unforgettable victory in the 2002 NatWest Series final.

It is hard to believe Ganguly is not preparing something special for England's tour to India in March next year. Whether Chappell is still the India coach is, however, questionable.

Sourav Ganguly: Life and times

* Born: July 8, 1972, Calcutta, Bengal.

* Major teams: India, ACC Asian XI, Bengal, Glamorgan, Lancashire.

* Bats: Left-hand.

* Bowls: Right-arm medium.

* Test batting: Runs: 5,066 at average of 41.18. Highest score: 173. 50s: 25. 100s: 12.

* Test bowling: Wickets: 25 at 52.47. Best figures: 3-28.

* ODI batting: Runs: 10,123 at 40.65. Highest score: 183. 50s: 60. 100s: 22.

* ODI bowling: Wickets: 93 at 37.31. Best figures: 5-16.

* Test debut: v England, Lord's, 20-24 June, 1996 (Second Test). First innings: Bowling: 2-49.

Batting: 131.

Second innings: Bowling: 1-5.

* ODI debut: v West Indies, Brisbane, 11 January, 1992. Batting: 3.

* Record as Test captain: Played 49, won 21, lost 13, drawn 15 .

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015