Former Indian cricket team captain Sourav Ganguly said on Sunday he was not surprised when the women’s cricket team dropped their senior most player Mithali Raj for the World T20 semifinal against England. He said he had faced the same fate at the peak of his career.
Mithali, the ODI captain who made two back-to-back half centuries against Pakistan and Ireland, had been rested for the final league game against Australia due to a knee injury. As India won against Australia without Mithali, the team management decided to keep her out in the semifinal too, and lost the match to Englang by a humiliating eight-wicket margin.
“I also have also sat in the dug out after captaining India. When I saw Mithali Raj being dropped, I said ‘Welcome to the group’,” Ganguly said at the Tollygunge Club in Kolkata on Sunday.
“Captains are asked to sit, so just do it. I have done it in Faisalabad. I didn’t play an ODI game for 15 months when I was probably the best performer in one-day cricket. It happens in life. The best in the world are at times shown the door,” Ganguly said, recalling the Greg Chappell era of 2006.
The former cricketer, however, said it was not the end of the road for Mithali.
“You should always remember you’re best because you did something and there’s an opportunity again. So I am not too disappointed seeing Mithali Raj being asked to sit out. I have not been disappointed to see the reactions on the ground,” said Ganguly, adding: “But I am disappointed because India lost the semifinals because I thought they had the team to go the distance. It happens as they say there’s no guarantee in life.”
He said women’s cricket had had a lot of hurdles in the last few years. “It’s good to see that they have been looked after now and paid good numbers,” said the former skipper.
Ganguly also spoke about MS Dhoni and captain Virat Kohli at the gathering.
About Dhoni, who is not part of the T20I and ODI squads currently touring Australia, Ganguly said: “He’s another champion… Fantastic career for 12-13 years since winning the World Twenty 20. Just like everyone else he has to perform. There’s one must in life: whatever job you do, wherever you are, whatever age you have, how much experience you have, you have to keep performing at the top level otherwise someone else will take your place.”
He added: “I wish him (Dhoni) all the luck because we want champions to go on a high, whenever he goes. I still feel he can hit the ball in the stands. He’s a phenomenal cricketer.”
Sharing an anecdote from India’s 2006 tour of Pakistan, Ganguly recalled how then President Pervez Musharraf had admired Dhoni. “I still remember Pervez Musharraf asking me from where did you get him? I told him he was walking near the Wagah border and we pulled him in,” Ganguly said recalling his light-hearted reply.
Asked what he thought about the 2019 World Cup lineup, the former skipper said he expected “85-90 per cent of the current team” would play.
About skipper Virat Kohli, Ganguly said: “He’s phenomenal. Look at his numbers. He wears his hat on his sleeves and India needs a captain like him for whom winning means everything. I wish him all the luck.”
(With agency inputs)