India has been blessed to have multiple captains like Kapil Dev, Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni and others who made India reach new heights of success in the gentleman’s game. Choosing the best captain of India will always remain a subjective opinion like taste but in this article, I argue why do I consider Sourav Ganguly aka Dada to be the best captain of India.
Let me take you to 2018 when the infamous ball-tampering incident had happened. Cornerstone players like David Warner and Steven Smith had been banned and it was the lowest point in Australia’s cricket history. Their morale was at an all-time low and it reflected in their performances. Australia lost a test series to Pakistan and then to India in their own backyard. In ODIs, Australia was whitewashed by England and later lost a series to India and South Africa as well. I guess you can see how much of an impact such incidents can have on a team which still comprised of multiple quality senior players.Embed from Getty Images
A similar incident happened in 2000 but with India. Big names like the former India captain, Mohammed Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja were caught in the web and the fraternity of cricket fans in India had lost faith in Indian cricket. Protests were happening in multiple places and amidst this dark and chaotic phase in Indian cricket, one man agreed to take up the captaincy role, and he was none other than Sourav Ganguly. The team’s morale was at an all-time low, Indian fans had lost faith in the team, the team was young and the challenges faced by Ganguly were massive but what followed was something extraordinary. Let us look at some of the reasons why I consider Ganguly to be the best captain of India.
He backed players till death
If you start to make list of players who benefitted a lot from Ganguly’s captaincy, then it will take you a lot of time. Let me save you some time and tell you about some of the most notable names.
Indian selectors had decided to drop Kumble from the 2003/04 Australian series. Ganguly started to counter the decision and even John Wright came up and said that let’s go with the selectors and we will still do well. Ganguly continued to argue nevertheless and when the selectors said that Ganguly would be the first person to leave the team if he, Kumble and India doesn’t play well then Ganguly readily agreed and Kumble was thus included in the team. Result? Anil Kumble took 80 wickets that years which is the most test wickets by any spinner in a calendar year
Ganguly was the one who made Sehwag open. Sehwag was being played in the middle order where his selection wasn’t guaranteed while the opening slot remained vacant. Sehwag was hesitant to open but Ganguly persisted and he ensured Sehwag that even if he fails, he will continue to play him. Rest is history
Here is what Harbhajan Singh said himself:-
I was dropped for a long time. I was also discarded by the NCA before that series, I was very low. If it wasn’t for my captain Sourav Ganguly then I probably would have settled down in Canada like many of my friends. Thank you Sourav bhai for supporting me throughout my career
MS Dhoni’s start to his ODI career was dismal. He used to come lower down the middle order at number 7 which didn’t work for him as he scored 0, 12, 7* and 3 in his first four ODI innings. Ganguly was playing at the number 3 slot but he sacrificed the slot for the next match and promoted Dhoni to number 3. Dhoni went on to smash 148(123) in that match. Rest is history
Yuvraj SinghEmbed from Getty Images
This is what Yuvi said himself,
I would die for a captain like him (Ganguly)
I have played under Sourav (Ganguly) and had a lot of support from him…I have more memories of time under Sourav because of the support he gave me
From convincing Javagal Srinath to come out of retirement for the 2003 World Cup to taking his pacers to veterans like Wasim Akram to give them some tips, Ganguly’s trust in his players was unmatched. The way he spotted talent and supported his players to death was to say the least, out of the world.
Attitude he brought to the team
If a team has just come out of a horrendous match fixing scandal, then more than results, the team needs attitude and that is what Ganguly brought to the team.
Let me give you an example. In the famous 2001 series between India and Australia, Srinath came out to the field for something and Buchanan on seeing this rudely asked him why was he doing that. To this Ganguly recalled once,
It was not his (Buchanan’s) business. Srinath told us in a team meeting that Buchanan had asked him that in a rude manner. Then we decided that we would show them… That’s why I went out late for the toss in Vizag (third ODI in April)
He made Steve Waugh wait for the toss multiple times and during the 2003 series when Waugh told him to be on time for the toss, Ganguly replied, “If you behave, I will.” Steve Waugh in his autobiography had written that Ganguly made him wait for the toss seven times! Once Steve Waugh said,
When you see an Indian side with Ganguly in the lineup, you know it is game on. You don’t have to like or dislike him. You have to respect him.
Under Ganguly, we saw multiple instances where players would openly hit out at the opposition when needed. This aggressive flair and attitude which Dada brought to the team, played an integral part to the building process and something which stats won’t ever portray.
Overseas Tests ResultsEmbed from Getty Images
One thing India always struggled with was performing on backyards alien to it but Ganguly changed this too.
- He was the most successful captain in terms of overseas test wins until Kohli surpassed him
- His win % overseas is nearly twice as that of MS Dhoni and loss % of 36% is better than the 50% of MS Dhoni
Under Ganguly, India won 11 of the 28 overseas Tests- 1 against Australia, 1 against England, 2 against Pakistan, 1 against Sri Lanka, 3 against Bangladesh and 3 against Zimbabwe.
Oppositions in Ganguly’s time were stronger than during the time of Dhoni or Kohli and winning overseas was something alien to India but it commenced under Ganguly. Bishan Singh Bedi won two tests in Australia in 1977/78 as a captain and after that, it was only in 2003/04 under Ganguly did winning a Test in Australia happened again which even MS Dhoni couldn’t replicate. The last time India had won a test in England was in 1986 and it was only in 2002, that India won a test in again in England.
In difficult conditions, he started winning Test matches. That’s when India believed we can beat England in England, Australia in Australia and Pakistan in Pakistan. That belief came from GangulySrikkanth
Stats and RecordsEmbed from Getty Images
- India became the joint champions of the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy
- India went to the finals of the 2003 ICC ODI World Cup
- India won the 2002 NatWest Trophy in England
- India went to the finals of the 2000 ICC KnockOut Trophy
- Before he became the captain, India was ranked 8th in the Test Rankings. Under Ganguly, India reached 2nd position in Tests
- Under Ganguly, India won 11 of the 28 overseas Tests making him the most successful Indian captain overseas before Kohli surpassed him- 1 against Australia, 1 against England, 2 against Pakistan, 1 against Sri Lanka, 3 against Bangladesh, 3 against Zimbabwe
Yes, Dhoni’s trophy haul and Kohli’s stats are more impressive as a captain that that of Dada’s but numbers have never been a correct representation of someone’s performance as a captain? Never. Players of the likes of Kane Williamson and Graeme Smith have been brilliant captains for their side but is that highlighted when I say that they have never won an ICC Trophy?
Ganguly had all the things against him when he started as a captain. He had an angry set of Indian fans who were revolting against an young and inexperienced team with low morale. Ganguly had to bring the attitude, results and also build the team in the process and Ganguly did all of it fabulously and selflessly and these are subtle things which stats don’t potray. To add weight to this topic and to finish this article, here are some quotes on Dada as a captain by the greats of the game
From keeping the opposing batsman waiting at the toss to playing verbal and mental games, he was a master at the art of gamesmanship.Kumar Sangakkara
Ganguly was the first captain that changed the perception of the way India played their cricket. Now, there is not much difference between the Indian and Australian Teams.Steve Waugh
Sourav is really the best captain India has ever had.Kapil Dev
Sourav is my favourite. His leadership against Australia in Australia was astonishing. I have great respect for him.Ricky Ponting
Featured Image: Sourav Ganguly.jpg: Hashir Milhanderivative work: Legolas2186 / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)
I have been following many sports like Cricket, Football, Formula 1, Kabaddi, Chess and more for many years. I love consuming cricket related content like books, podcasts, and documentaries. Bibliophile, aspiring blogger, and writer by heart.